A survey of more than 800 respondents provided a real insight into UK companies’ use of social media marketing

Social media marketing has been much talked about in the last 2 or 3 years. From a user perspective there has been significant growth, Twitter has just reached its 5th birthday with users now sending 1 billion tweets a week and Facebook has over 30 million UK users and over 600 million worldwide.

How has business embraced the new social media channels to reach and engage with customers and prospects ?

  • 40% of companies say they have “experimented with social media but have not done much”
  • 18% say they are “heavily involved in social media”

Companies are using social marketing:

  • as a marketing channel
  • to publicise new content
  • to get customer feedback
  • for brand monitoring
  • responding to customer service issues
  • HR purposes including recruitment
  • for product development

Focus on Twitter and Facebook

With new kids on the block virtually every week, 83% of respondent companies were using Twitter & 80% are using Facebook as a focus for their social media strategy.

However, during 2010, companies’ use of other social media sites, podcasts, widgets, virtual worlds, social news declined. New areas like location based marketing and social gaming (e.g. Farmville) are relatively little used.

Investment in social media is modest and a major barrier to success

For most companies, investment in social media in 2010 is modest but 83% of companies expect to increase their social media marketing in 2011. However, this is from a relatively low base as in 2010, 33% of companies were spending less than £5,000 on social media marketing and 25% were not spending anything.

From a resource perspective, 29% of companies do not have anyone in their organisation doing social media marketing and 32% have just one person.

49% of companies say lack of resources is a major barrier to success and 30% say lack of budget is a significant problem

Why are companies failing to invest in social media?

15% of companies are saying that their social media investment has generated a greater return than other marketing channels.

The absence of ROI measurement is a key problem with 47% of companies saying the “jury is still out” because they have not been able to measure results. Given, many other internet related marketing activities like pay per click and email marketing can provide robust ROI measurement, it’s more challenging to get companies to invest in marketing activities where it can be harder to measure the ROI.

Another challenge some companies are having is integrating social media with other marketing channels.

Key learning for companies big and small

  • develop / review your marketing objectives
  • identify whether social media marketing can better meet some of the objectives than existing / other marketing activities
  • consider how you are planning to measure the results of your social marketing compared especially in ROI terms
  • make sure you have a social media policy in place given marketing communications in non-paid space under companys’ control such as social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are now covered by the Advertising Standards Authority Committee of Advertising Practice codes

The survey took place in August / September 2009 and was conducted by Econsultancy