The State of Social Marketing (Part 1)

This is the first of two articles covering the recently published Pivot Conference Report ‘The State of Social Marketing 2011 – 2012: From Social Brands to Social Business’.  Full Report details have just been published on the Brian Solis blog.

Part 1 summarises the main conclusions of the Report.  Given that it is based on US data, some observations are then made concerning the current ‘state-of-play’ with social media in the UK and other countries, based on our extensive coalface experience in this area.  Part 2 will address the ‘so what’ question i.e. the implications of the Report’s findings for Social Media Strategy Development moving into 2012 and beyond.

Based on the very detailed Report summary provided by Brian Solis, keynote findings are as follows:

  • Social Marketing currently stands at an important crossroads.  While there are a number of vanguard Social Businesses who have fully embraced the need for engagement, the majority of companies lag behind in execution.  Most remain at an experimental stage in their social media activities
  • A major ‘Perception Gap’ exists between the social media expectations of customers and executive assumptions of customer wants.  One of the key trends has been the emergence of the Social Consumer
  • Social Consumers are fundamentally different from traditional consumers in the way they find and share information, the way they make purchasing decisions.  They place more emphasis on the shared experiences of those they trust on social networks compared to corporate driven brand messages.  They expect brands to respond to their socialized questions.  This will require businesses to rethink their traditional approach to sales, service, marketing and customer relationship management. ‘Being Social’ will become the new key to consumer connection and success

Based on a detailed survey of 181 brand managers, agency professionals and other experts, the following key findings were noted:

  • 77% of respondents thought they had a clear idea of who their Social Customers were but most did not actively engage with them. 53% had not asked their Social Customers what they expected from engagement
  • In terms of demographics, Social Consumers are now widely distributed by gender, age and income
  • Facebook (95%), Twitter (89%) and Linkedin (76%) are the main networks used by Social Consumers but with a strong and more recent growth in the use of Google +
  • Experts were split on whether social would go mainstream in 2012 with 49% stating that they would probably be staying at the experimental stage.  This was reflected in budget allocation, with 60% allocating less than 30% of their total marketing budget to social media; a full 43% would allocate less than 10% to social marketing
  • The main barriers and obstacles preventing companies from moving beyond the experimental stage are interesting to note.  Uncertainty regarding budgets was mentioned as the most important barrier, quickly followed by ‘inability to define expected outcomes’; ‘absence of a clear social media strategy’; ‘lack of understanding of potential business benefits’; ‘executive scepticism’; and ‘lack of performance metrics’

So how do these US based findings compare to the current ‘State-of-Play’ with social media in the UK and other non-US countries? Where are we? What progress has been made and where are we going?

We would make the following observations based on our extensive experience in this area (e.g. Social Media Workshops delivered to over 2,000 companies over the last few years). Our observations support the main findings of the ‘State of Social Marketing’ report:

Interest and enthusiasm for social media in the UK and other countries has grown rapidly. Compared to 18 months ago, there is now a very high level of awareness and enthusiasm regarding the potential business benefits of Social Media from companies and organisations of all sizes and across most sectors. Channels are being set up, but the majority of companies remain at an experimental/’testing the water’ stage of social media maturity.

While good progress has been made, two main problems remain:

First, a broadcasting mentality prevails. For too many organisations, social media is seen as just another PR platform for broadcasting messages AT rather than engaging WITH customers.

Second, few organisations adopt a ‘strategic’ approach to social media. While it is easy to set up social media channels, the lack of strategic planning leads to major problems down the line in terms of resourcing, content, customers, measuring performance, business impact and return on investment.

In moving towards a more advanced stage of social media involvement, organisations in the UK and other countries will face exactly the same obstacles and barriers as reported in the US study. Part 2 will provide advice on overcoming these barriers, moving from a position of using social media to becoming a social business.

As usual, feedback and comment are very welcome. What is the ‘state-of-play’ with social media in your own organisation?

Jim, Alan, Vincent

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  1. Craig McGill
    January 2, 2012 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Happy New Year to all readers (and writers) of the blog. A cracking post lads, keep up the good work in 2012.

    Now, yes, many companies are still using social media in broadcast mode (as you point out, talking AT instead of WITH) but in an age of “You can use social media any way you want” should we be surprised? I don’t think it’s the best way of using social media but unless the champions of social media point out a) better benefits and b) inexpensive ways of doing it, many will remain in broadcast mode only. (I go with Billy Connolly on this one: “Would you rather make love AT someone or WITH someone?”)

    Quite simply, there needs be better persuasion that doesn’t seem like out and out selling of an agency or service for companies to start to think it’s worth doing. There also needs to be better expectation management. Sadly too many still have the Kevin Costner mentality of “build it and they will come (in this case a Facebook or Twitter page) without realising that building is only half the battle – it provides the building blocks for an ongoing relationship, but that takes time and daily effort.

    As for strategy, completely agree. But part of the problem there is that people can’t even agree on what strategy is!

  2. Jim Hamill
    January 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    A very Happy New Year to you and yours too Craig. Thanks for taking the time to comment, especially during the holiday period – much appreciated. I take on board everything you say.

    Later this month, we will be launching a free Online Learning Programme which is actually being driven by many of the comments you make i.e. the need to better explain the business benefits to be derived from talking WITH rather than AT people; the new ‘mindset’ required to be successful in social media (marketing as a conversation); the importance of building strong, lasting relationships especially with high value customers; the importance of strategy etc. These will all be key elements of the programme.

    We are hoping that the programme will become a truly crowdsourced effort building on everyone’s joint knowledge and experience in this area and we would very much welcome your contributions – see http://energise2-0.com/2011/12/14/online-learning-mastering-social-media/

    Take care and will drop you a quick DM re a meet up early January

    All the best for 2012

    Jim H

  3. The State of Social Media Marketing (Part 2) | Energise 2-0
    January 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    […] Part 1 of this article summarised the key findings from a recently published Pivot Conference Report entitled ‘The State of Social Marketing 2011 – 2012: From Social Brands to Social Business’. Part 2 presents strategic guidelines to support organisations moving from an experimental to a much deeper level of social media engagement. […]

  4. Federico Smanio
    January 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Jim,

    I take the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on this.

    I have just discussed with my boss the urgent need to understand the social environment around our world and to not only set up new channels but to outline a social strategy as a first basic step to a better understanding of our customers and an effective way to involve our stakeholders and engage with them in an enriching and profitable conversation. (looking forward to your forthcoming Online Learning Programme)

    We both agree on the necessity of strategic planning and a better understanding of our customers. But as the Pivot Conference report clearly shows, his doubts range from unclear outcomes to lack of understanding about benefits.
    I don’t think this process is easy especially for small organizations dealing with loads of urgent daily issues unless you have allocated the resources to actively work on that. But then, which executives are to devote budget to something that they don’t have a clue on the outcome?

    I personally believe that nowadays there is a lot of talk about going social, about being social without an actual understanding of how to use social media to reach corporate goals.
    I sense people realize there’s something big out there and they don’t won’t to miss anything.

    I totally agree with Craig when he says that too many seem to suffer from the “build it and he will come” syndrome.

    Wishing a very successfull 2012 to you and yours, I would also like to thank energise2-0 for all the very useful insights that are constantly delivering.

  5. Jim Hamill
    January 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks Federico for taking the time to comment. Just rushing to a meeting just now so will reply in more detail over the weekend.

    Take care

    Jim H

  6. Federico Smanio
    January 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you Jim.
    Looking forward to hearing from you!
    Take care

  7. Jim Hamill
    February 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Federico – sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

    Please have a look at our most recent post ‘Social Media Strategy Audit’ – maybe this will be useful for you.

    Take care

    Jim H

  8. Federico Smanio
    February 2, 2012 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Don’t worry, I am following everything you post and as far as the social media audit I think it is a great tool to evaluate our current state of the art.
    I would very much appreciate if I could share some insights and comments on our League’s specific situation.
    I really appreciate your effort and your work.
    Thank you.

  9. Jim Hamill
    February 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Thanks Federico by all means please do share some insights on your League’s situation and i will be only too happy to respond. Do you wish to do this here or by email?

    Take care

    Jim H

    • Federico Smanio
      February 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      I would rather write you an email but no problem to share useful insights with Energise 2-0.
      Take care.

      • Jim Hamill
        February 3, 2012 at 10:46 am

        Will DM you with my email address – thanks

  10. Social Media: The Antidote for Youth Unemployment? | Energise 2-0
    March 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    […] The key term here is ‘used effectively’.  While some progress has been made, few companies in Scotland are leveraging the full potential of new technology.  Major barriers still need to be overcome.  These include: ‘uncertainty regarding costs’; the ‘inability to define expected outcomes’; ‘absence of a clear digital technology/social media strategy’; ‘lack of understanding of potential business benefits’; ‘executive scepticism’; and ‘lack of performance metrics’ – see ‘The State-of-Social Marketing, Part 1’ […]

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