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7 insights from a social media marketing study

The Social Media Examiner is out today with its 4th annual survey of social media marketing; 3,800 marketers answered the survey.  Thanks to Adam Sherk for the tip.

Statistically valid?  Perhaps not, but it’s an impressive number of respondents and provides a solid indication of how things are shaping up.  To that end, some of the outcomes are equally impressive. Several things jumped out at me:

1. Social media remains important to business.  No surprise here that 83% of marketers agreed or strongly agreed that social media was important to business.  What was surprising is that 54% of solo business owners strongly agreed with this statement.  That is small shops, with limited time and resources, see the most opportunity in using social media tools.  Is that because they are low cost, or because they are valuable?

2. More experienced professionals spend more time on social media.  Just 38% of marketers spend 1 to 5 hours a week on social media; 26% spend 6 to 10 hours and as little as 15% spend 20 or more hours each week on social media.  That amazes me because it strikes me as too little time.  Maybe that’s because experienced professional have social media all figured out – everyone is an expert now – but I doubt it.  It takes both a lot of time, and a long time, to build engagement on social media.  Marketers and PR pros must be disciplined and committed to daily engagement, or you are wasting time.  This survey found that “by spending as little as 6 hours per week, 61% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media.”  If there’s a proof point for spending more time on social media – that’s it!

3. Despite the critics, Google+ has potential. 40% of respondents are using Google+ and another 70% said they wanted to learn more about the tool.  The Google+ naysayers are out in force, but with tight integration and sharing across Google’s web, it’s certainly an opportunity worth watching.

4. Email marketing still prevalent; opportunity for social integration.  87% of those surveyed are still using email and makes a good case for integrating social media with email marketing.  It also explains the rational for ExactTarget acquiring CoTweet, and why my employer, Vocus, recently acquired iContact.

5. B2B marketers have been using social media longer than B2C marketers.  It’s marginal number with great weight – 18% of B2B marketers versus 14% of B2C marketers saying they have used social media for three or more years.  This fascinated me given the plethora of blog posts and questions on networks like Quora that examine this issue begin with the premise that B2B marketers question the value of social media marketing. The fact remains that social media is social, which means it’s about people connecting, and even B2B companies are made up of people.

6. YouTube is the top area to increase investment.  76% of marketers said they’d increase their investment in YouTube marketing – the second year in a row that YouTube topped the charts.  Maybe it’s that “Charlie bit my finger” video made $500,000, or that if pictures are worth a thousand words, than video is worth a million.  Greg Jarboe is great person to follow for YouTube marketing tips; he literally wrote the book on how to spend an hour a day marketing on YouTube.

7. Creative marketing.  Aside from the numbers, a couple of creative marketing ideas I took from the report itself was the bold move of advertising the Social Media Examiner’s social media summit on page 9 – and the ease at which the document itself provides social sharing tools.  Nearly every page has working share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.  It’s a nice touch to facilitate content promotion for what is in essence a white paper.

You can read the full report here: 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Photo:  screenshot of “commonly used social media tools” from page 21 of this report.

4/9/12 Note:  An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that more experienced professionals spent “less” time on social media than those with less experience. I have corrected the post today, but my point remains:  it’s not enough time.

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4 Responses

  1. GrantCrowell

    What I wasn’t clear on from this report is how and where they got their survey data. Did they have an independent study done, or was it a survey of their existing readership? That’s the kind of distinction that I believe would skew the results one way or the other. While I presume it’s more expense, it does more on a trust scale to hire an independent survey company and explain how the respondents were contacted for participation.  That’s not so much an issue with the sets of questions asked, as much as gathering a true state of the overall marketing industry’s usage of social media, versus those who are already fans. But that aside, it’s a great report to learn from.

  2. GrantCrowell

    Also interesting to note on page 37 of the report, is that press releases are labeled as “non-social marketing.” Is that a really a fair label for PR? 

    1.  @GrantCrowell I think it’s a fair label; I don’t think that releases are inherently social.  We don’t belong to a network that review releases like status updates.  That said, they can be socialized.  Widgets and the like facilitate sharing (PRWeb research found, btw, that video can increase time on page by up to 30 seconds), but it’s people that are social  People like news, so if a release has great content, it’s obviously more likely to be shared. 
      With regard to your other comment noting this survey isn’t statistically valid — it’s a good point and one that’s often discussed.  The trouble with surveys — even statistically significant surveys — is that they are ALL self-selecting.   The results are based on clarity of the questioning and the integrity of the respondent.
      This point is especially relevant given the deluge of infographics cranked out these days; it’s important to read theses studies carefully to understand 1) the line of questions which can bias the answers; 2) the demographics which I’m sure you’ve note. 
      I don’t have any proof points beyond experience, and I have done a lot of survey research, but I’ve found a survey with about 1,000 or more respondents (with the right demographics) and you’ll usually have a pretty good indicator.  Statistically valid? No.  But we make marketing decisions all the time on data that isn’t statistically valid; if we waited for such data, we’d be guilty of indecision.
      The other thing that’s important to note for this particular survey, is that it’s the 4th annual — so there’s a benchmark to measure against.  

      1. GrantCrowell

         @Frank_Strong that’s a good distinction between what’s inherently social versus what can be socialized. I think in our modern era of social business and connected consumers, most of not all of PR today needs to include a socialization strategy.

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