Social Marketers Don’t Walk The Talk

by · September 10, 201217 comments

Brand and agency marketers don’t see social media marketing as a lead or sales generation channel, don’t spend much money on it but insist that it’s an integral part of the marketing and business mix. Those are my early takeaways from Adobe’s Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing on Managing and Measuring Social produced by Econsultancy.

Certainly, charts and graphs can be misleading when not spending ample time cross-tabbing the data and checking this angle and that, but here are the survey results of over 650 marketing professionals, a nearly even distribution of agency and brand-side and B2C/B2B, that helped me to that assertion:

When asked what are the top roles for social within the organization, lead generation was fifth and sales was seventh in the pecking order with awareness taking the top role. Only 13 percent of client-side marketers say social is used for lead-gen. Only four percent of them say sales is the top role. Agency-side marketers were only two percentage points higher.

Social Media Roles - Econsultancy Survey

When asked how much is spent annually on social media marketing activity, 60 percent of businesses that generate less than £100 million (in British pounds – more on U.S./UK demographics in a second) and 25 percent of businesses that make more than that spend less than £5,000 per year on social media. Only seven percent of the under £100 million and just 40 percent of the over £100 million crowd spend more than £50,000 annually.

The survey respondents included just over 50 percent from the United Kingdom but 32 percent were from the U.S., making it quite relevant on both sides of the big pond.

Despite the supposed lack of budget and focus on bottom-line business metrics from these marketers and their companies, more than two-thirds say social media marketing is integral to their marketing mix and the business strategy of their companies. For the less than £100 million crowd, 73 percent say it’s integral to the marketing mix and 75 percent say it’s an important part of business strategy. For the larger set, the numbers are 67 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

You should read more into the report (as am I in the coming days) by buying your own copy. It’s available at Econsultancy. The full price is $400. You can get samples from the report for free, however.

My question is how can this be? How can so many marketers claim social is such an important part of what they do, but not support it financially and not focus on direct business implications as a result? Are we just at that adolescent phase of social media marketing where the intent doesn’t match the execution? Are C-Level decision-makers (or the marketers themselves) just paying lip-service to social but not supporting it financially?

I’m aware that the lead-gen and sales question is a bit muddied. But if marketers are going to spend resources and time on social shouldn’t they prioritize the roles that put social outcomes that drive bottom-line business metrics as the top priority?

I’ve got a lot more thinking and reading to do on this report — and thanks to Adobe and Econsultancy for sharing it with me — but I’m interested in your take. The comments, as always, are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • http://twitter.com/jwsteiert Jonathan Steiert

    Jason, how about customer service? I would venture a guess that customer satisfaction is a key metric for all those C-Level folks and social media can certainly be one of the best ways to keep an organizational ‘ear-to-the-ground’. I wonder where that finished on their list?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      It was just before lead-gen. Right in the middle of the chart above.

      • Webseodesigns2012

        post is nice but lengthy but very use.the is explaining every thing

  • Ss11mans

    There is very good informative information here great job.

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    I think the biggest problem is that people still don’t know how to measure it, or they are taking the easy route and only measuring awareness, which is easier to calculate in my opinion. With all the technological advances in data collection and attribution, we still have a long way to go unfortunately. This is the likely reason why social isn’t getting the budget it deserves. This would be an interesting survey to cross reference measurement with budget decisions in social. 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent suggestion, Nick. Hopefully Econsultancy can or will do that. I think there might be a little of that in the report, but it would be neat to dive into that more deeply.

  • Davis Van Tilburg

    The issue is people are are trying to measure the return on social media incorrectly. This is not a new problem, as marketing ROI in general is hard to measure. Driving key metrics should be the goal of social media marketing? What if brand awareness is a key metric. Companies can be part of consumer’s evoked set of brands through social media leverage and even though it is not measurable directly the results are more valuable to modern well run companies than less informed, less involved consumers. Social media empowers the consumer and makes them engage with a company, which builds brand retention. The list of benefits goes on, as will the battle for marketing funding, especially when the social media buzz wears off. 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Davis! Thank you for that.

  • @Rob_koster

    This may be in the complete report, but it would be very interesting to know how these stats measured up to the same period the previous year, and, what the forecast is for the future period.

    With more and more people going online, and with more and more businesses that offer services as well as brands trying to engage on social media, I can see a shift taking place with regard to lead gen and sales.

    As mentioned, the difficulty is defining the roi; are click throughs from social media to customer websites classed as lead gen for example? In definition, yes, but this is not the case to most businesses. Is this simply due to a lack of social media knowledge?

  • http://www.victoriahouseneedlecraft.com.au/ Dionne

    Not sure about the problem with larger entities but as a small business owner in a niche market (needlecraft) I am unwilling to outsource my Social Media engagement to anyone else.  My concerns in handballing the whole thing is that there will be completely generic statements/engagement that are irrelevant to my industry/market/customer.  Therefore having a negative impact on my business.  

    If I outsource engagement with my briefing and input then add inevitable modifications and tweaking and the time it takes as they get to the job in the queue.  It will cost me money and time.

    For very little more time and no money I can do it myself.  As a retailer in what is essentially looked at as a luxury purchase when times are tough, I need to slash costs where I can. 

    Perhaps the disparity between belief and action are as simple as mine but on a much larger scale and companies that are serious about social media have recruited in-house lackeys as part of a job expansion scheme.  It is exactly what I would do if my business was larger and I could outsource this function.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amy.fey.5209 Amy Fey

    I found this study to be  pretty revealing and the fact that social
    marketers don’t consider social media a lead generation channel is disappointing
    not only for the marketing industry, but for the business managers who care
    about results. I think the problem lies in not setting our goals and objectives
    clearly enough. If the social media strategy is set up correctly, it will
    ultimately end up generating relevant leads. Keep up the good work, Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Amy. It think it’s just a by-product of the maturation of social as a business tactic. Eventually it will get better as more and more companies implement lead and sales strategies through social channels and see success with them.

  • Jerry Mccann

    Ask yourself this question, “If I run into an insurance salesman at a Sunday afternoon social gathering and he/she tries to sell me insurance, will he or she be the first one I’ll call when I’m actually shopping for insurance?” In my experience, that person is the last one I’ll consider. 

    Social media is about building goodwill for a company and being “likable”.  Trying to close the deal on social media is bad form and a low yield strategy.  The metric for the value of “likability” is very difficult to arrive at for sure but the value is there nonetheless. Trying to count beans when you’re counting your friends misses the point.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Jerry. Good analogy.

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