Social Unrest: Lack of Understanding Hinders New Media Marketing Investment
Marketing investment in social media has so far failed to match the hype surrounding those platforms. New research suggests that this is due to a widespread lack of understand of the business potential for social media among marketing managers. New Media Knowledge dug into the statistics.
Despite millions of users and the associated hype surrounding social networks such as Facebook and microblogging site Twitter, marketers are failing to allot budget to advertising over social networks. Analyst group Forrester says that three quarters (75 per cent) of marketers have committed less than $100,000 (£70,000) to social media targeting over the next 12 months. This year, Forrester expects 44 per cent of Web users to visit a social network at least once a month during 2009 but predicts that advertising over that medium will be just five per cent of total online ad budgets.
According to marketing services group Sapient Interactive, the apparent lack of will on behalf of marketing managers to commit budget to social network marketing is due to a general lack of understanding, even though one in every 11 minutes spent online is now passed on social networks.
The company’s own research out this month shows that almost half (41 per cent) of UK marketers admit to a level of ignorance as to how to market over social networks. The main reasons include “no clear measurement or return on investment” (19 per cent), the fact that social networking is still in its infancy and therefore “not proven yet” (17 per cent) and 14 per cent of marketers admit that they “don’t know where to start”. Despite this apparent confusion, Sapient Interactive found that more than one half (54 per cent) had run a social networking campaign, although mostly as part of a wider marketing push as opposed to a standalone effort.
“Social networks should be a marketer’s dream! The time spent on social networking sites is increasing, and the audience has broadened and matured, therefore providing the ideal platform for carefully targeted, creative and personalised marketing campaigns,” said Nigel Vaz, vice president and head of Sapient Interactive Europe. “However, there is still a lot of confusion about how marketers embrace social networking either as campaigns on their own or as part of wider marketing campaigns. We believe it is about creating the social experiences that personify your brand. Segmentation and content are key because if doesn’t resonate, it fails.”
Roger Warner is the founder of digital marketing firm Content and Motion, and he believes that marketers need to take a step back and apply tried and trusted marketing techniques to what is in effect just another medium over which to market. That, he argues, will help erase some of the confusion surrounding social networks for marketers.
“Rather than rushing out and 'doing a Facebook', we find it's far better to sit down and figure out what the objectives are in the first place,” Warner told NMK. “And here's the thing - the goals haven't changed, we're still in marketing, it's just the channels that are moving. But if you can figure out what makes a 'win' then you can get immediate clarity on the channel question. If your goal is to generate buzz, then Twitter might be appropriate. If it's to syndicate the brand, then Facebook might be a winner, so it's horses for courses. Once this is nailed then tricky questions like measurement and budget get a lot clearer. It may be that if you get the top 10 bloggers in your space to write good things then you get a win. That's not a headache, that's a PR project.”
Warner says measurement and resource concerns differ depending on which industry marketers operate in. It is easier, Warner argues, to demonstrate value in the business-to-business (B2B) market, where targeting is more selective, than mass marketing to consumers.
“I think social stuff works in very precise ways when the mechanics are social in nature, but it gets problematic if you fall into the trap of going into broadcast mode. That's just shoddy PR by another name,” he added.
Given the fast-changing nature of social media, it’s no surprise that marketing budgets take time to catch up, according to Xavier Adam, managing director of marketing group AMC Network. He cites the example of Twitter which, despite being a medium which many marketers have used in the last 18 months, has only really gained global publicity in recent months.
“There are many other reasons marketers may avoid social networks. How well are networks policed? Will marketing material appear next to something inappropriate? TV is a mature medium and therefore well regulated. Online is not,” Adam concluded. “In summary, marketers are not ignorant, but there is a lot out there, it is moving very quickly and it is very new. So, it will take time for marketers to catch up and find their new mediums.”