Social Media: Where Are The Business Results? [Research]

2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

Social media is important to over 80% of businesses based on one of the more interesting findings from Social Media Examiner’s 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report How Marketers Are Using Social Media To Grow Their Businesses. [Click to download entire report.]

This finding is consistent with other research that shows businesses are continuing to increase social media marketing spend. Yet despite this support, marketers still have a difficult time proving social media’s contribution to the bottom line.

At a top level, social media’s biggest benefits according to Social Media Examiner’s research were increased exposure, increased traffic and marketplace insights. While these elements support building name recognition and provide expanded information about your target audience, they don’t fulfill the top business objectives nor do they directly translate to sales (although they’re important for small businesses with limited marketing resources.) Instead, they’re easy to achieve requiring limited work.  

A deeper examination of the Social Media Examiner’s research shows the following trends.

  1. Improved sales. While sales require time to convert, only 40% of respondents were able to track sales back to their social media efforts. (Note: This is consistent with other research. Tracking sales on social media requires specialized support.) In part, this may be attributable to the inherent difficulty of tracking sales initiated via social media. Research shows that spending at least eleven hours per week developing leads into customer relationships actually does yielded improved social media results. Similarly small business owners with two or more employees were more likely to see improved sales from social media. In part this may be attributable to employee’s use of the medium.
  2. Generated leads. Roughly two-thirds of small businesses were able to generate leads compared to an average of 58% for all marketers. Over time, marketers get better at acquiring social media leads since almost four-fifths of marketers with three or more years of experience say they have brought in leads from social media. In part, this is attributable to having had more time to convert prospects.
  3. Improved search rankings. Roughly three-fifths of respondents experienced enhanced search engine rankings. This rate increased with experience as well as time invested. This makes sense since it takes time for content to rank on search engines and there must be a consistent effort across the organization.
  4. Developed business partnerships, particularly B2B organizations. By spending time on social media, businesses are able to build relationships. Most respondents with three or more years of experience said they were getting positive results in this area.
  5. Reduced marketing expenses. Small businesses and self-employed professionals are most likely to see reduced marketing costs because they’re trading their creativity and time for outsourced efforts. By contrast, over a third of all mid-sized and large company respondents found that social media didn’t reduce marketing expenses. This makes sense because once social media is integrated into a larger organization’s marketing, resources need to be dedicated to managing social media. [Here’s a fuller examination of social media expenses.]

To show more direct bottom line impact, social media marketing requires setting goals aligned with business objectives and then selecting appropriate metrics to track. Once the metrics are determined, it’s critical to use a contextually relevant call-to-action and a unique promotional code for tracking. Lastly, you must ensure that your existing analytics can capture and report this social media generated activity.

Are you able to track sales back to your social media efforts? If so, how do you accomplish this? If not, what do you measure?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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