Marketers query value of social media

The majority of marketers still do not see social media platforms as sales drivers with more than three-quarters saying that they add little or no value when acquiring new customers.

Social media

Only 23% of marketers believe that social channels will help in getting new customers, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

The report, which looked at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, also found that a third (34.5%) of the 1,500 marketers polled said that their social media activity in 2011 was “not at all effective”, with only 13.7% reporting it was “extremely effective”.

The majority of marketers polled see social media as a tool to engagement (37%), or as support to other channels in a campaign (46%).

Alex Pearmain, head of social media at O2, says it is in engagement and not direct response where social media will prove successful for marketers.

He adds: “Social media can make money, but businesses need to have a broader view of how it can do this. If someone invests in direct response and wants a return within 10 days, I would query the use of social media.

“However, if it is a longer-term approach to drive customer engagement and customer value, then social media is more appropriate.”

The CIM report fuels the debate on the effectiveness of social media. Some marketers have said that it is difficult to justify investment in social media at a time when marketing budgets are coming under scrutiny. Major advertisers such as Diageo and Unilever, however, have backed social media as a direct marketing tool.

For those companies that are still wary, the CIM says that buzzwords such as fans, followers and retweets must be turned into something meaningful for the wider business.

Brands and boardrooms have been put off social media in the past due to “fluffy metrics” according to Jeremy Waite, head of social media at Phones4U, highlighting the need for an industry standard to make social media more commercially viable.

The CIM says that marketers are also failing to see the value of social media as an insight tool, with only 20% of marketers using Facebook for market research.

Bakery chain Greggs, however, believes that gleaning real time insight on what customers want from social media is “one of the most powerful tools for a CEO” if businesses act on what customers are telling them on social channels.

Despite doubts over the effectiveness of social media, the report found that 74.5% of marketers plan to increase their investment in social media in 2012.

The CIM surveyed 900 senior UK marketers as part of a 1500 strong global panel. It plans to carry out further studies to help marketers benchmark the way they use social media.

Readers' comments (8)

  • The frustrating thing about this research is how it considers social media activity in a solely customer recruitment role. It fails to (at least in the article), demonstrate the extremely powerful retention capabilities of these channels.

    All said and done, social media channels simply must be considered as just one cog that also help to initiate and sustain dialogue that leads to conversion.

    Which takes us to the point that Jeremy makes - monitoring and reporting have existed for years but the biggest failing has been the ability to define/include metrics which actually mean something to the business - the ability to report metrics "just because we can" serves very little purpose to a head of e-commerce who quite rightly has their analytical hat on.

    If the plethora of tools has taught us one thing, there is more than enough data available - people just need to interpret it into something of value.

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  • interesting debate and assume it really relates to how much time and consistent effort is actually put into SM and recognising that it really works better for consumer led markets whereas it demonstrates connectiveness to business led models that still need to demonstrate their modernity

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  • The C-level execs do have a good point - better, more consistent metrics are needed to validate the engagement of social media as a channel to connect with key audiences.

    But looking at the stats for relatively new platforms like Pinterest which, even if the stats are not completely accurate, still demonstrate the incredible potential to drive traffic through social platforms. Beth Hayden of CopyBlogger has commented: "In January 2012, Pinterest drove greater traffic to websites than LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, and Youtube — combined".

    The brands and businesses that get onboard the social engagement vehicle now will be in a far better position to turn audience engagement into action, than will the late majority or laggards.

    It is the job of the communication agencies, however, to better advise and support clients in the process of finding the right channels to help connect more effectively. Something few are yet doing.


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  • I am quite shocked at this. To be honest, I don't know any marketer that isn't on top of social media. Where did they find these people...??!!! 2012 will be the year of social and frankly....traditional marketing is dead!

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  • In my experience, many organisations do not have a social media strategy and therefore, no measurable objectives. Social media has been introduced in some businesses as a way to cut traditional marketing budgets. It is something businesses feel they should be involved in but do not necessarily understand and therefore, are not gaining the benefit that can be delivered through social media as part of an integrated approach.

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  • The study is probably useful - but only in part. SMM is very much in its infancy - very few would understand it fully.

    And I guarantee most of the "marketers" surveyed would have a very limited understanding of modern (Relational Marketing) anyway. The vast majority being Transactional Marketers - and SM is not suited to what they do.

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  • Was this poll conducted with marketers living and working in the last century? It all seems very shortsighted. Almost akin to saying Facebook is a foolish and ineffective way to communicate, or that smartphones are a passing fad. We need to appreciate the bigger picture - that social media channels are a driver and tool to instigate action and two-way dialogue. And that usually segues very effectively into customer aquisition.

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  • Again another situation where marketers are focusing on leads/response rates and not the overall picture.

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