One of the most trusted sources of marketing research and information is MarketingSherpa. I’ve been a subscriber for many years and always look forward to the reports on Search Marketing, Email Marketing and B2B Marketing. Last year MarketingSherpa started conducting research and publishing a Benchmark Report on social media marketing.
The new Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report (affiliate link) was recently released and I’ve had a few days to take a look and will provide a review for our readers.
As you can expect, this guide is a “meaty” 250 plus pages of research, charts & tables, examples and well written advice. Over 2,000 marketers participated in the survey covering a myriad of topics ranging from strategy to forecasting & budgeting to integration with other marketing channels to specific research on social applications such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
MarketingSherpa emphasizes strategy with this edition and has coined an acronym similar to a phrase we’ve often used here on Online Marketing Blog, “Social Media Roadmap“.
What MarketingSherpa introduces in this report is “ROAD” Map, which stands for Research, Objectives, Actions and Devices. The ROAD Map guide along with determining what phase a company is in with it’s social media maturity, helps determine next steps, planning and execution.
Based on my personal experience with a variety of companies at different stages of the social media maturity model, I think this emphasis on strategy is warranted. There has been an overemphasis on “strategy before tactics” as of late, but without any useful model to act on. This most recent guide from MarketingSherpa offers a methodology many “social media gurus” are lacking.
For a while, social tactics and the latest “shiny object” captured marketers attention. Then came more business minded advice suggesting the need for a social strategy. Most companies have heard of and had staff use a variety of social tactics. That initial familiarity brings companies to a stage of “I get it, but what next?”. That’s where a Social Media Roadmap, or in the case of this report, ROAD Map come in to play.
Companies’ used of social media is in transition from trial to strategic and the five chapters dedicated to ROAD Map offer more than enough data and examples for most companies to make confident next steps.
Besides the strategy, tactics, technology and tools that are covered in this report (plus research findings), there are several special reports which offer sage advice on consumer social media experience (Social Media Friends, Followers and Max Connectors) and integration with other marketing channels such as Email and Search Engine Optimization (did I hear Social SEO anyone?).
There are also chapters dealing with social media and agencies, regulating employee use of social media, social media and IT, and the inevitable comparisons between business and personal use.
On the research findings, social media budgets will be increasing substantially over last year. Most will go towards people resources and the rest to technology and services. Many companies do not plan to outsource much of their social media marketing activities so many of the survey respondents did not indicate much budget going to hiring outside agencies.
One interesting stat was that social media budgets (11%) edged out SEO (10%). Is this the sign of a trend? It’s more complicated than that because the lines between SEO and Social Media are very, very blurry. The trend we’ll see is that social media (like SEO a few years ago) will draw budget away from other channels until it matures and gets it’s own cost center and budget.
Another interesting observation was that “B2C marketers lead their B2B counterparts in the formulation and consistent implementation of social marketing practices.”
I’ve said many times that social media is a platform, not a tactic. That means it touches many other communication and marketing channels in an organization. It’s not a stand alone discipline. According to the MarketingSherpa Guide, Social Media integrates best with Web sites, Email, Search Engine Optimization and Public Relations.
How are organizations measuring social media success? The Business.com Social Media Benchmarking Study shows companies are surprisingly unsophisticated in this area, relying mostly on Google tools such as Alerts or Yahoo Alerts. That spells a HUGE opportunity for social media monitoring service providers as these companies mature in their use and expectations for measurement.
This is a very hefty report and I would recommend it only if you’ll actually read it and implement the suggestions. If you read and use only 10% of the insight in this guide you will have paid the approximate $450 cost many times over. I understand many companies are still feeling tight budgets but I have to say, you probably can’t afford NOT to get this guide.