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Social media marketing in the UK, Europe and Asia – who’s doing what?

New social media benchmark research reveals which social media tactics are working best for businesses

The Social Media Benchmark is a rolling six-monthly study exploring how marketers are adapting to, investing in and getting value from social media.

We first reported on Wave 1 in February 2012 when the results from an Autumn 2011 study were published.  Wave 2, the first survey for 2012 was published in June 2012. I have updated our summary below, showing the changes between Wave 1 and 2.

Purpose and methodology

This is a major, ongoing initiative from The Chartered Institute of Marketing which is supported by Ipsos ASI and Bloomberg. You can see from the names behind this research is not just, a poll, instead it's a major research programme.

It's intended to help companies understand how they can get value from social media marketing through publishing regular waves to benchmark against. The first wave of 1500 marketers was surveyed late in 2011 and announced last week with the next wave due in June. The detailed research hasn't been published, but a useful summary in the form of this infographic has been published.

Results of Wave 1 and Wave 2 Social media benchmark research

Although interesting, it's possibly the longest, densest infographic ever, so I'll pick out what caught my eye first...

1.  Which tactics are used

First, before the serious stuff, a simple analysis showing which platforms are being used. It's surprising that Twitter is significantly higher than Facebook, perhaps reflecting fears of control of Facebook and Twitter's value in customer service and promotions. You Tube is significantly less popular.

In Wave 2, Google+ is added - the figure of 22% shows how slow many companies are to respond to changes in the social media platforms.

Wave 2 research

Wave 1 research

2. How is social media marketing being managed?

This is much more interesting - you can see from Wave 1 that many have a dedicated resource, but few have a full-time social media manager instead, in a third of cases, responsibility is spread across people in the marketing team. Our recently published, in-depth 7 Steps to Social Media Strategy Guide shows how marketers can structure teams and develop a strategy based on content marketing.  Surprisingly few have outsourced to a third-party.

Wave 2 doesn't look at management, rather measurement. The shock here is that only 9% use social listening extensively with nearly a third not using it at all. Is this because it's not valuable or because the right people, tools and processes aren't in place I wonder?

Wave 2 research

Wave 1 research

3. What returns are being achieved?

Even more interesting, the report paints a relatively dark picture of the effectiveness of social media.

34.5% of the 1,500 marketers polled said that their social media activity in 2011 was “not at all effective”, with only 13.7% reporting it was “extremely effective”.

The majority of marketers polled in Wave 1 see social media as a tool to engagement (37%), or as support to other channels in a campaign (46%).

Looking at individual social channels - there are more rating the channel as not at all effective rather than extremely effective, especially for LinkedIn and YouTube. Twitter seems to be big winner in this report. In Wave 2, surprisingly there is relatively low levels of investment in Google+. Our reading of the importance of Google+ for search rankings suggests this is a mistake.

Wave 2 research

Wave 1 research

Alex Pearmain, head of social media at O2, interviewed as part of the report says it is in engagement and not direct response where social media will prove successful for marketers.

 “Social media can make money, but businesses need to have a broader view of how it can do this. If someone invests in direct response and wants a return within 10 days, I would query the use of social media.

However, if it is a longer-term approach to drive customer engagement and customer value, then social media is more appropriate.”

The full infographics

Here are the full infographic. The first one is certainly a nicer design than the blocky 70s graphics of the second. On the content, the second shows that time and budget are not being made available by management to manage social media - rated as a significant barrier to progress.

Wave 2 research

Wave 1 research

Share your thoughts

  • John K commented on July 2, 2012

    Can someone tell me what businesses are trying to achieve through adopting a Social Media strategy, and more importantly how are the going about measuring any perceived success?

  • Andrew Tavener commented on June 29, 2012

    I think you have a typo in 2. How is social media marketing being managed?

    “Wave 2 doesn’t look at management, rather measurement. The shock here is that only 9% use social listening extensively with nearly a third not using it at all. Is this because it’s not valuable or because the write people, tools and processes aren’t in place I wonder?”

    Overall an interesting read.

  • Social media is not just for youngsters to dangle out and discussion, it is also a highly useful device for companies to gain visibility online and to connect immediately with the audience. With social press, companies have access to a huge audience outside the normal arrive at of a internet business.

  • Excellent report. More realistic than most of the information that gets published. Says to me that “ordinary businesses” are getting their sleeves rolled up and starting to get to grips with the benefits of Social Media.

  • I posted an earlier response to this study slating it for being too one-dimensional but that comment was either removed or my disqus connection was bugged – (not sure), but in essence I feel that social media channels are not failing UK businesses – instead a lack of methodology, proper digital media management and poor, irrelevant and insufficient content are the stumbling blocs
    For me the only solution and way forward is for businesses to embrace the advice and discipline available on sites like this, pay for the advice of experts, ensure there are clear deliverables undertaken by strategic digital consultants to scope and set projects off, then good training for staff, some restructuring (albeit gentle), but, foremost businesses need to “act like publishers” as suggested in this Smart Insights post which examines core skills for non-medi brands

    • Hi Stephen – it looks like your comment has stuck now – it wasn’t us!

      Yes, I agree, I think this stems from lack of strategy.

      Sadly, many who experiment with new marketing approaches without a strategy, then fail to get returns will give up and there will be a backlash against social media because of this. But I think there are enough success stories from those who have taken a strategic approach for this to work.

      As you suggest, the lack of a content strategy to underpin social media is often a failing together with the need to transform.


  • kevinhudson commented on February 23, 2012

    This is a fantastic segmentation of the benchmark report! I’ve just shared this with a number of my local LinkedIn groups to highlight the fact that social media is more than a buzzword, but it’s still rarely being treated as an important aspect of business.

    It also amazes how many business owners/managers leave the responsibility of managing a brands social media activities to someone who is under-skilled or disinterested etc. It seems that the job description for most business is still; “do you know how to tweet”. The Value and Investment section shows that brands are still not getting it right in regards to social media responsibility. (Unfortunately, this may be due to the fact that a lot of other creative types have jumped on the social media bandwagon.. e.g. web designers, I even know a printer who’s claiming to be a social media professional!)

    Anyway rant over. This is a great article, thanks for producing it Dave!

    • Hi Kevin, I was training yesterday, so didn’t respond. Thanks for sharing.

      I like your job description! All the examples of success show it’s where the senior managers that get it, develop a strategy then invest and restructure – that’s where it works best.


      • kevinhudson commented on February 24, 2012

        Hi Dave, I completely agree that 2 keys are the positive and willing involvement of senior managers (as well as them truly understanding why etc), and investment both financially, time-wise, and resource wise. I really dislike it when SM’s totally exclude social media from the integrated business operations/objectives…then they moan when they see no ROI.

        I think the business world is so focused on the tools/platforms, and completely gloss over the understanding, values, concepts etc of using social media for business.

        Data like this, though, will hopefully be the fire-starter for change.


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