Lee Odden

Comprehensive Guide to Social Media Marketing from Marketingsherpa

2009 Social Media Marketing & PR Guide

Review of the 2009 Social Media Marketing & PR Benchmark Guide from Marketingsherpa

A new report on social media has been released from Marketingsherpa with Senior Analyst, Sergio Balegno, as lead author.  Over 1,800 marketing and PR professionals responded to the survey resulting in one of the most complete, data supported guides on social media published to date.

There are numerous books, seminars and “experts” touting social media advice for marketing and PR professionals. Much of that advice is based on experience and even more is based on wishful thinking. This report takes a structured approach to data collection and analysis offering readers the advantage of understanding what works and what doesn’t when it comes to social media marketing and PR.

The guide is unique in that it provides insight for both marketing and public relations and is divided into 5 sections:

  • Emerging state of social media marketing & PR
  • Planning for social media with strategic goals and tactics
  • Social media and public relations
  • Social media metrics and budgets
  • Web 2.0 and social media

The guide also includes a special section, “Nine Steps to Social Marketing Success” giving a specific sequence of tasks for marketers and PR professionals to follow, much like a social media blueprint. What’s not to like about practical, “act on it now” advice?

As an Internet marketing agency that has been providing companies with advice on social media advice (starting with business blogs in 2004), there is a particular appreciation for good information sources, especially those driven by data more than theory. An informed customer gets more value from experienced consulting and can often do a better job of implementation.

Social media isn’t something companies “do”, it’s something they “are”.

Speaking of data, the survey results showed that 76% of respondents agreed that social media is changing the way their companies communicate.  Marketers are backing up that perspective with budgets, even during the economic downturn. In fact, for 2009, social media and email marketing were the only 2 tactics where companies planned on increasing spending.

With social media a hot topic in every major business publication, blog and conference, companies are motivated yet mystified about where the social web fits within their marketing communications strategies.  They’re also wondering whether their companies are a fit for social media engagement. The Marketingsherpa survey revealed that the biggest barriers to social media adoption by companies are a lack of knowledgable staff and the ability to measure ROI.

“Know it alls”, know very little. Interestingly, 2/3 of respondents that have not used social media marketing or PR indicated that they were very or somewhat knowledgeable. Clearly, there’s a disconnect between being familiar with a concept and having expertise to execute effectively.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. There is a common perception that social media is “free” but the reality is that it’s time consuming, carrying substantial costs for learning curve and labor.  Fixing your own car is free too, but how much sense does it make to figure that out compared to using a manual/guide or better yet, a mechanic?

Many, but not all, situations involving social media are not that different. Effective adoption can be facilitated by companies or consultants that have actual experience and expertise, especially when it comes to developing a social media roadmap.

This notion was supported by the survey which reported that social media specialists are more likely to accomplish goals than in-house teams.  Specifically, social media specialists implement effectively 69% of the time vs in-house marketing PR team 58% of the time.

Easier to measure, harder to get results. Another particularly surprising result from the Marketingsherpa suvey was that the most measurable social media tactics tend to be the least effective. Social media advertising is an example of a highly measurable tactic that has yet to result in substantial ROI. Marketers that are obsessed with tracking social media results quantitatively, often miss the point. They may find themselves using less effective social media tactics simply because they are more measurable in way they are familiar with, instead of emphasizing the relationship, influence and word of mouth capabilities.

Branding loves social media. Survey respondents indicated that achieving branding goals was the most effective use of social media. Reputation, awareness and improving search engine rankings and web site traffic were also rated highly.  Building networks and promoting content within social media channels can certainly result in search engine optimization benefits, but focusing on those outcomes specifically are difficult to sustain.

These insights are the tip of the iceberg in the report and I’d recommend the investment. Between social web participation, research based resources like this report and practical, outside consultants and hands on training like SocialMediaSmarts (a workshop offered by TopRank and the national DMA), companies can improve their ability to effectively participate in and gain business results from the social web.

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (No Ratings Yet)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Working through the guide as well, and finding some interesting information. It really helps give perspective for those “inside the bottle” so to speak.

    This…is scary:
    “2/3 of respondents that have not used social media marketing or PR indicated that they were very or somewhat knowledgeable.”

    • Yes, I think that’s true of most people that work online. Confidence levels with “social media” are high, yet actual implementation experience is low. Especially compared to other more mature marketing tactics like SEM, Email or online advertising.

      In the end, companies and individuals will get sorted out. Expertise is not evidenced by what people say, but what they can do.

  2. Avatar Gino Cosme says

    You’ve hit a very important nail right on the head! Experience counts on the Internet, be it “traditional” online marketing or social media. Enthusiasm is great for climbing the experience mountain but sadly not for taking a project and running with it. Enter lack of results when evaluation time comes.

    This report should be on the desks of more marketing executives. We need more unbiased material like this – real information that gets to the heart of the matter less all the hype and fluff.

    • That’s great feedback Gino and I agree, the more awareness within marketing, the better. Especially when it’s a combination of independent sources, first hand experience and industry info.

  3. Your thoughtful insights on our insights are much appreciated, Lee! We’ve already begun a ‘wish list’ of social media topics to include in next year’s edition and look forward to any ideas you or your readers would like to contribute. Sergio

    • Thanks Sergio – By next year I’d suspect there will be many, many more case studies and survey respondents. Perhaps enough to segment the marketing guide from the PR guide?

  4. Great post. I agree with Lee. There are so many people out there on the Internet proclaiming to be “experts” when in fact, they have very little to no experience in Internet marketing. As consumers on the Internet, we have to be knowledgeable and know the difference between someone who is just trying to make a buck versus someone who actually has something to offer.

  5. It’s very easy to be overconfident in bragging about one’s own abilities when you are online instead of face to face. I think that’s the reason for so many “experts” out there.

  6. Great post Lee. It’s good to hear more companies willing to spend more money on social media.

  7. Good points in the blog, and the report.

    The problem is marketers are yet not thinking beyond “posts”. There is a serious lack of plan and strategic focus. Marketers need effective tool and strategic direction before they actually get benefit from social media channels.

  8. I was looking for this kind of article on internet from some time. Complete guidence on social media marketing. Thanks a lot.

  9. Curious why they wouldn’t also include a section on web 3.0. I guess books can’t be written and published at the speed of technology.

  10. Good thought, Cindy. We include “bleeding edge” topics whenever possible. The problem was finding a “widely accepted” definition of Web 3.0 at the time. During the very early stages of any emerging concept, it’s difficult to write about something that changes so quickly – like shooting at a moving target! Look for it in the 2010 edition. Thanks – Sergio