The State of Social Media Marketing Highlights: 5 Lessons from Social Marketing Leaders

The pace of change in the Social Marketing arena is relentless.  The rate of social platform adoption continues to grow, with Facebook now touting over 800+ million members and Google +, which started with 10 million users in July, now reaching over 62+ million people. New platforms like Pinterest, which was a tiny blip on the social platform map in June of 2011, showed hockey-stick growth by December 2011, reaching over 10 million users.  With the evolution of social platforms’ usage and capabilities, we are starting to see clear social marketing maturity patterns, driven by savvy social enterprises, who are setting best practices and are followed as best-in-class examples for companies starting with social.

We surveyed hundreds of marketers across industries, levels of expertise, and geographies to produce The State of Social Media Marketing: Top Areas for Social Marketing Investment and Biggest Social Marketing Challenges for 2012. It became clear that the practices of the mature Social Marketing Leaders we surveyed will be emulated in the future by less mature marketers (we’ll refer to these marketers as Novices throughout this blogpost), so here are 5 key lessons from the Social Marketing Leaders that other marketers can learn from and follow.

LESSON 1: Measure your Social Marketing efforts

The State of Social Marketing Survey, showed how Leaders value measurement and metrics they follow. 76% of these Social Marketing Leaders related that they are measuring their social media success, compared to only 22% of Novices.

Social Marketing Leaders measure and monitor and a number of metrics related to their efforts. They focus on measuring and trending their Social Presence (their brand presence across multiple social networks and platforms) with metrics such as number of followers and fans.  These “best-in-class” leaders are also much more likely to measure social mentions of their brand across platforms (68% compared to 31% of Novices).  They also track and benchmark Share of Social Conversations more (56% vs. 31% of Novices) and Lead Generation (44% vs. 29% of Novices).  Across the board, the Social Media Leaders have adopted and are tracking many more metrics than social marketing Novices. 

 Comparison of Measurements between Social Marketing Leaders and Social Marketing Novices

Comparison of Measurements between Social Marketing Leaders and Social Marketing Novices

 

LESSON 2: Invest in Social Media Management Platforms

44% of the Social Media Leaders surveyed already use robust Social Media Management (SMM) platforms, and another 16% are planning to implement them this year.  This is compared to only 6% of Novices who currently report using social media management platforms.  Social technology investment is a top area of marketing investment for the Leaders too: 64% of them said more robust Social Marketing Management is a key investment area for their companies in 2012.  Here’s a quick look at all the areas where Social Marketing Leaders are planning to invest in 2012:

 Social Marketing Investments planned by Social Media Leaders in 2012

Social Marketing Investments planned by Social Media Leaders in 2012

 

LESSON 3: Monitor Brand Mentions and Industry Conversations Frequently

Social listening appears to be another area where the Social Media Leaders have made clear advances.  When we asked how often marketers listen for brand mentions and industry conversations, 80% of the Social Marketing Leaders responded they actively monitor brand mentions in real- or near-time.  This compares with 20% of Novices who are monitoring brand mentions this frequently.

Even in the challenging area of identifying and monitoring industry conversations online, the Social Marketing Leaders are listening more closely than their less experienced peers. 79% of the Leaders listen real- or near-time for valuable market insights, compared to only 14% of Novices.

 Social Media Marketing MonitoringSocial Media Marketing Monitoring

 

LESSON 4: Budget and Staff Matter

Social Marketing Leaders see the correlation between their social marketing investments and business ROI. We saw a clear consensus among all surveyed marketers that they need to do more yet are concerned they don’t have enough resources and budget.  However, it is apparent that Social Marketing Leaders have largely won the budgeting battle, allocating staff and budgets to their efforts.  72% of the Leaders report having budget allocated to social marketing initiatives, a big difference compared to just 22% of Novices. 

When it comes to staff for the social marketing function, the Social Marketing Leaders securing dedicated staff for social marketing activities.  Only 4% of the Leaders are getting by without staff specifically responsible for social marketing, compared to 22% in the Novices group.

Social Marketing Leaders, on average, have larger staff allocated to social as well.  48% of them related that they have three or more resources dedicated to social media marketing, with 16% reporting having teams of 10+. Only 8% of Novices report having a social marketing team of three or more.

 

LESSON 5: Challenges Exist for Everyone

As one of the fastest growing industry segments, social media marketing is becoming a core business practice that is in need of a comprehensive strategic framework, and corresponding organizational setup, best practices, workflow, infrastructure and measurement.  Our State of Social Media survey confirms that, as an evolving practice, social media marketing is still in the process of being defined and measured. This is why it is not surprising to see that both Social Marketing Leaders and Social Marketing Novices report their top challenge in 2012 being measuring ROI.

Related to this challenge is the key question of how marketers should allocate resources - people and budget, to get the social marketing job done.  Besides growing social presence, which continues to be a top focus for all marketers, we are starting to see that Social Marketing Leaders are not seeing tighter integration between marketing, lead generation and sales as big of a challenge as their less experienced colleagues.  This is likely because experienced social marketers began the process of tighter integration in 2010 and 2011 and are beginning to see the benefits of providing an integrated customer experience across their channels and the ROI associated with that.

 Comparison of Top Challenges for Social Marketers

Comparison of Top Challenges for Social Marketers

Let us know your thoughts. What are your social plans for 2012? Where do you see your biggest opportunities?  What do you think will keep you up at night? Do you have questions, concerns or what to learn more about a specific social marketing topic? Ask us or share your thoughts in the comment section below, on Twitter (hashtag #Awarenessinc) on Facebook at Social Media Marketing Best Practices, or on LinkedIn at the Social Media Marketing Mavens Group.