Why Advertisers See Social Media as ‘Experimental’

Despite the hype surrounding Twitter and Facebook, advertisers for the most part spend little on social media marketing, according to a new report by Forrester Research.
Forrester found that 75 percent of marketers have budgeted less than $100,000 for social media efforts over the next year. The firm concluded that social media has not yet entered the marketing mainstream, but is largely relegated to experimental budgets — despite the fact that social media marketing typically costs less than traditional ad programs.
Social media had yet to prove its impact, using accepted measurement standards, in moving customers through the marketing funnel, Forrester said. That lack of proven impact has relegated efforts to the sidelines: 45 percent of respondents said their social media budgets are determined on an “as-needed” basis.
“In order to be successful, brands have to have dedicated strategy and programs to make these [venues] work like their other marketing vehicles,” Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang said.
The good news: Even with the economy in recession, a majority of marketers — 53 percent — said they expected to increase spending on social media. Just 5 percent said they would decrease spending and 42 percent said their outlays would remain the same. (Forrester did not ask marketers to specify if they were including ad programs on social sites.)
“Social media is new so marketers are trying to pull budgets out of other areas,” said Owyang. “It’s very early days for most marketers.”
Owyang pointed to less quantitative signs that social media is moving up the chain at major companies. Speaking from the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, he noted the presence of major marketers like H&R Block, Coke and Microsoft. Pepsi has more than 10 employees at the conference and is sponsoring several events.
“That’s very different from two years ago,” he said. “It’s clear they want to be educated on social media marketing.”
Forrester’s research is based on interviews with 145 interactive marketers, nearly three quarters of which work at companies with over 1,000 employees. The survey was conducted between November 2008 and February 2009.
Among the areas the majority of respondents tabbed for increases, social networking led the way with 70 percent stating they planned to boost budgets. Over half said they planned to spend more on blogs and user-generated content.