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Riding the rising tide of social media investment

Riding the rising tide of social media investment Gordon Plutsky

Social media campaigns encompass a wide variety of strategic objectives; however, there is a clear common theme. Social media campaigns revolve around customer relationship management and lead generation. Ultimately, they need to drive leads and sales. Which makes sense -- the goal with social media is to get closer to the customer in every way.

The strength of social media is that direct connection. Unlike advertising or traditional media sources, there are no middlemen between company and customer when it comes to social media. Companies can also use social media to encourage current customers to "work for them" by creating a viral campaign that uses current customers to share news, tips, and discount codes, thereby generating new leads.

A recent King Fish Media study on marketers perceptions surrounding social media (co-sponsored by HubSpot and Junta42) aimed to take a snapshot of the mindset of marketers as social media becomes a mainstream marketing tactic. Most surveyed companies are ramping up efforts and will be increasing their social media budget over the next year -- either by adding incremental dollars or by shifting dollars from advertising and traditional marketing.

In most companies, social media execution is being handled by the marketing department, and 90 percent of the companies surveyed are doing it internally. At most companies, social media is a part of a marketer's varied job responsibilities. However, there are signs that larger companies are transforming the job into a dedicated post. Two-thirds of companies focus their social media efforts on their company as a whole, while 41 percent promote individuals within the company. Meanwhile, 24 percent promote a specific brand. Additionally, 70 percent focus their social media programs on both customer retention and acquisition strategies

As expected, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are most often used by marketers. Corporate blogs are maintained by 65 percent of surveyed companies, and YouTube is utilized by half. It is not surprising to see heavy usage of these sites -- there are low barriers to entry. YouTube is noted most often for more future use, and video on the web in general will become more pervasive as a standard for content distribution.

Original content, both branded and expert, is by far the most used tactic for social media. Video content, user case studies, and reviews are used by roughly half of all companies surveyed. Across the board, marketers feel very strongly that content is the key to a successful social media campaign rather than the chosen technology platform. Social media platforms are excellent channels for original, company-created content and for user- and customer-created content. Content that is original and engaging is both a traffic driver and a conversation starter among fans and followers.

Companies are using many methods to track and measure social media campaigns. These metrics often focus on overall followers and fans, in addition to leads and increased interaction with customers. There is no lack of quantitative metrics to measure overall reach, but the more important measure of success is an increase in sales and profit.

In terms of return on investment, almost half of companies say their social media campaign met or exceeded ROI expectations. However, 43 percent did not measure the campaign. And, overall only 29 percent say that a positive return is needed for funding or approval at this time. In contrast, 43 percent will be tracking ROI -- though it is not a requirement.

Marketers are allowing for some leeway as they pilot new and varied social media campaigns, as social media is not yet considered a mainstream marketing tool. We are now in an exciting experimental phase -- so the time is right to test as many campaign variables as possible.

The clear benefit of social media is that you own the media channel and the environment. The ownership and interactive nature enables you to generate leads and build relationships with current customers in a manner not possible through advertising and direct mail. When the low out-of-pocket cost is factored in, content-based social media campaigns are likely to generate significant returns for forward-looking marketers.

Gordon Plutsky is director of marketing and research for King Fish Media.

On Twitter? Follow Plutsky at @GordonPlutsky. Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

As VP of Marketing, Gordon Plutsky partners with Digital Bungalow clients to build their marketing and content strategies, as well as direct the social media and measurement/analytics aspects of their programs.Gordon was previously the CMO at King...

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