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Despite Huge Traffic Growth, Surveys Show Social Media Still Soft On Marketing Results

  • Written by  John Gaffney, Senior Analyst
  • Published in DemandGen Reports
Last week was a tough one for social media network salespeople. Two major reports were issued Friday that show very clearly people spending a dominant amount of time on social networks, but those visitors are not exactly speeding to the top of the lead scoring chart.
The first report came from marketing services firm Epsilon. According to an online survey conducted in late October by GfK Roper Public Relations and Media for Epsilon, 27% of consumer and BtoB CMOs identified social networking and word-of-mouth as the tools they would most like to add to their marketing mix to compensate for anticipated budget cuts.

However, the survey found that 55% of the 180 CMOs at leading brands said they’re not too interested (22%), or not interested at all (33%), in incorporating social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace into their marketing strategies. That’s the long view. The CMO’s said that dialogue marketing is a legitimate trend in the industry, but just 10% percent said they already are using these social sites in their marketing plans.

The Epsilon report was followed quickly by a new study from IDC, which also showed web surfers spending ever-greater amounts of time on social media. More than 75% of social network users visit at least once a week, and 57% visit at least once a day, according to IDC. During each session, 61% of users spend at least 30 minutes on the respective site or stay permanently, and 38% spend at least one full hour per session (or stay logged in).

Both studies showed that while there is a growing audience for social media, the response rates and other marketing results have lagged. IDC identified four major reasons why consumers use SNS: to connect and communicate; in response to peer-pressure; for entertainment; and for work-related purposes. Notably missing: Advertising. In fact, users are less tolerant of advertising on social media networks than the best tolerated forms of online advertising. Ads on the sites have lower click-through rates than traditional online ads (on the web at large, 79 percent of all users clicked on at least one ad in the past year, whereas only 57 percent of social users did), and they also lead to fewer purchases (Web: 23 percent; social media 11 percent).

The Epsilon survey showed that marketing executives were more inclined to use Internet forums (52%), webcasts and podcasts (47%), email (47%), blogs (37%) and webinars (52%) than Facebook and MySpace (35%). “These sites narrowly appeal to college and high school students, providing a challenge as far as measuring results and yielding a limited amount of actionable data,” said Epsilon’s CMO Steve Cone.

Other results from the Epsilon CMO survey:

    * CMOs bracing for budget reductions identified email as the channel they are least likely to cut back on versus any other tool in the traditional or digital marketing mix.

    * While just over half of the companies surveyed already use customer data mining, 23% more said that they plan to utilize the technology in the next 12 months.

    * 55% of those not already employing web analytics plan to do so in the next 12 months.

    * Customer loyalty and rewards programs remain polarizing, with 33% of companies already using the strategy and 17% planning to use in the next year, but 50% not using or planning to use.

    * Kevin Mabley, Senior Vice President, Epsilon Strategic Services, noted the value that marketers place on email. “According to our latest benchmark statistics, retailers see 20 cents in e-commerce revenue for every email delivered, showing the measurability and profitability of the email channel in times when people are seeking those two attributes.”