Marketers rethinking social media

A new survey shows that marketers' expectations of social media have come back down to earth.

Dave Rosenberg Co-founder, MuleSource
Dave Rosenberg has more than 15 years of technology and marketing experience that spans from Bell Labs to startup IPOs to open-source and cloud software companies. He is CEO and founder of Nodeable, co-founder of MuleSoft, and managing director for Hardy Way. He is an adviser to DataStax, IT Database, and Puppet Labs.
Dave Rosenberg
2 min read

Marketers have become more realistic about how to best engage their audiences, according to the results of a new IBM survey.

The State of Marketing 2011 report presented today at a marketing event in Boston covered nearly 300 online and direct marketers across a wide range of industries, geographies, and company sizes. Results reveal that marketers have become more practical about their expectations for both mobile and social marketing, as well as the realization that their efforts are strongly tied to IT, especially when it comes to making marketing campaigns actionable for the end-user.

From the survey results:

  • More than half of marketers use social media, but based on responses, their enthusiasm is tempered, suggesting that the peak of inflated expectations has passed; marketers are focused on finding the value that social channels can yield with more targeted insights and actions.
  • More than 40 percent currently use mobile marketing tactics and another 20 percent plan to do so within the year
  • Nearly 60 percent of respondents listed "measurement, analysis, and learning" as their top information technology bottleneck, whereas last year, they overwhelmingly viewed "IT support of marketing needs" at the top. More than 60 percent identified "turning data into action" as their top organizational issue.
  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents expressed interest in an integrated marketing suite, as the industry's need for technology grows and adoption matures.
  • Marketers are getting more serious about using cross-channel attribution to understand marketing effectiveness.

These results come as no surprise and were affirmed by a recent Forrester Group report (PDF) that notes challenges in data and measurement. According to Forrester, marketers are struggling with both the organization of data as well as how to best measure marketing performance.

There is no shortage of tools available for social media management, but the challenge for marketers is to figure out what they should actually be measuring and what is considered success. For example, do you want clicks on your links, retweets, or transactions? And what channel is the most efficient and cost-effective, mobile, Facebook, etc. Ultimately, the tools are only as good as your ability to process the data in a meaningful way.

Possibly the most important finding from the survey is the fact that marketers themselves have reset their expectations, which will undoubtedly help their clients and companies make better decisions.

I spoke with Lonn Johnston, principal at social media agency Lewis PULSE, who suggested that marketers oversold the impact of social media campaigns in the consumer market, which left businesses with unrealistic expectations. However, Johnston believes that business-to-business social efforts under way at clients such as SAP and VMware can easily compete with online advertising to drive higher-end customers into a sales funnel provided the client has the proper expectations and understanding of what they are looking for as an end result.