More than one-quarter (27%) of consumer and B-to-B chief marketing executives surveyed online in late October by GfK Roper Public Relations and Media for marketing services firm Epsilon identified social networking and word-of-mouth as the tools they would most like to introduce to their marketing mix to compensate for anticipated budget cuts--ahead of all other traditional or digital marketing channels.
However, more than half (55%) of the 180 responding chief marketers--representing brands with revenues ranging from $250 million to more than $10 billion--indicated low current interest in actually incorporating the networking sites into their plans.
One-third said they're "not interested at all" in getting Facebook and MySpace into their plans, and 22% said they're "not too interested," while 35% are very or somewhat interested.
Other, more "traditional" social media scored far higher on the very/somewhat interested in integrating question. More than half (52%) ranked both Internet forums and Webinars in this category, followed by Webcasts and podcasts (47%), email (also 47%) and blogs (37%).
Just 10% reported that they are already using Facebook and MySpace in their marketing plans.
Why the lack of use of these networks? These sites "narrowly appeal to college and high school students," pose results-measurement challenges and yield a limited amount of actionable data, sums up Epsilon CMO Steve Cone.
To put it more bluntly, "marketers don't care about teenagers sharing photographs with one another," Cone tells Marketing Daily. And while companies can post their own products or marketing-oriented profiles on these sites, site users "are likely to turn off" if they see too much marketing on these kinds of channels, which they consider vehicles for personal communications, he adds.
"The same applies to text-messaging," Cone notes. "The channel can be used for marketing, but it's not advisable."
In short, "marketers are being smart" by not trying to use Facebook and MySpace as no-cost online billboards, he believes.
In contrast, marketers have plenty of proof that email works. Epsilon's latest benchmark stats show that retailers, for example, realize 20 cents in e-commerce revenue for every email delivered. Email's measurable profitability obviously makes it attractive to marketers--particularly during a time of budget cutbacks, notes Kevin Mabley, SVP, Epsilon Strategic Services.
Indeed, responding marketers confirmed that email is the medium they are least likely to cut back on in the face of anticipated budget reductions for the year ahead.
The economy will make budget cuts inevitable, in marketers' view: 93% are expecting moderate to significant budget impacts in 2009. Moreover, 70% are predicting that they will specifically need to reduce advertising expenditures within their plans.
Aside from continued focus on email, what's in the game plan for 2009? About half report that their companies already use consumer data mining, but an additional 23% are planning to do so within the next 12 months. Furthermore, 55% of those who are not already using Web analytics will be leveraging that tool.
Marketers are divided on customer loyalty and rewards programs. A third report that their companies already have these, and 17% are planning to implement them next year, but half say they are neither using or planning to use such programs.