Commentary

Social Spend Soars, But Impact Stumbles

Big brands are spending more than ever on social media marketing and advertising, and social budgets are poised to continue going up, but execs remain unimpressed with its impact on their companies’ bottom line, according to the results of the latest CMO Survey from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, which polled 298 marketing bigwigs about their marketing strategies.

Over the next five years social media’s share of total marketing budgets will increase to 20.9%, up from just 5.6% in 2009 and 10.6% today, the CMO Survey found. But that forecast stands in stark contrast to chief marketing officers’ assessment of its effectiveness, with just 3.4% rating it “highly effective” and 10.4% viewing it as “above average,” while 40% graded it “below average” and 49.8% pegged it as just “average."

In fact, almost half of marketers don’t even think they have a grasp of social media’s effectiveness at all: while 11.5% said they have proven its impact quantitatively, and 40.6% said they at least have a good qualitative sense of the impact, if not quantitative, fully 47.9% said they haven’t been able to show any impact at all.

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That may be in part because social media often operates independently of other marketing channels: execs rated social media’s integration with the rest of their marketing efforts an average 4.2 on a scale from one to seven, up slightly from 3.8 four years ago but unchanged from August of last year.

On a related note, companies aren’t doing a good job integrating customer information gathered from social media with customer information from other sources, with respondents giving an average effectiveness score of 3.4 out of seven to their efforts here. That figure is actually down from 3.7% a year ago and 3.9% in August 2014 – suggesting execs are feeling overwhelmed by information overload, as they struggle to keep pace with multiplying and expanding streams of data.

As they contend with these challenges, more companies seem to be bringing social media marketing duties in-house, with the proportion of these responsibilities assigned to outside agencies dipping from 21.7% in August of last year to 20% today.

Looking ahead, the main areas of investment for social media in coming years will be content creation, cited by 62.6% of respondents; analytics, cited by 43.6%; campaign optimization and social media listening, cited by 41.5% each; community engagement, cited by 40.5%; and customer care, cited by 30.8%.

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