Marketing budgets must open to social

Social media's percent of marketing budgets (iStock) To remain successful, marketers MUST market in the social web. According to a May 2009 Anderson Analytics’ survey, 52% of social network users had become a fan or follower of a company or brand, while 46% had said something good about a brand or company on a social network. No matter the marketing goal, from customer service, branding, and lead generation to direct marketing and e-commerce, there is a place for social media in the marketing plan.

Although companies have begun to realize the importance of social media marketing in the near term, budgets have been slow to open up. While traditional media channels attract the largest percentage, online channels represent a growing portion of all marketing spend. But although social network interest, momentum and overall ad budgets are increasing, social network spending will remain a small percentage of total US online spending, remaining at 4.7% to 4.8% over the next few years (eMarketer). Still it’s important to recognize that resources directed to the social media space include time and effort and can be less concrete, and the key advantage of social media marketing is that you can get a lot of value for little investment.

Meanwhile eMarketer predicts as a result of the poor economy and the problems at MySpace, paid advertising on social networks will fall 3% this year, but spending will increase in 2010, up 13.2% from 2009 (spending in 2011 is expected to rise 8.2%). This rebound may be a result of more companies creating and implementing overall social marketing strategies, and hinting an end to the experimental phase of one-off social marketing tactics.

According to a recent study by Equation Research, nearly two-thirds of all companies surveyed had adopted social media by implementing a social media marketing tactic. While another third, plan to roll out a social media strategy within three to six months. Today’s most popular social media tools include Facebook (300,000 businesses have a Facebook page), Twitter, online video and blogs. Since social media tools are constantly evolving, it’s important to think about your objectives, audience, strategy and measurement first and tools last.

Another reason for sluggish budget increases is that ROI has been difficult to prove in the space. Emerging companies are working towards tracking social media ROI. For example, Omniture SiteCatalyst measures the popularity and success of Facebook applications, while Visible Measures provides metrics on true reach and engagement around digital video.  Once more best practices are established, marketers that have remained unsure about the medium may dive in, overall spending will increase and we’ll see an increase in marketers embracing social media as a core part of their marketing strategy.

To be successful today, there is no question that marketers must join the conversation.We are only seeing the start of unique ad formats, such as Facebook social ads, and new models, such as 33 across social graph targeting. With a direction that is still unclear, social media holds a promising future.

So, if you are wondering how much budget to allocate to social media, there is no one answer. Depending on your objectives and audience, it will be different for each company. My suggestion is to first continue to push your organization towards understanding the change that has taken place in marketing. Companies that don’t understand the power of social media aren’t likely to invest much in it. Also, examine your internal resources. Staff who can devote time to social media efforts will help determine your budget. If you are not sure where the money will come from, examine your current traditional efforts to see what isn’t working. Perhaps you produce one less 30-second spot and reallocate the funds to a social media campaign.