Marketers Warm Up to Social Media

NEW YORK Advertisers are increasingly willing to try social marketing, with growing plans to tap user-generated content, blogs and social networks.

Forrester Research, in a survey of over 90 marketers, found social media is gaining broader acceptance, though it still trails far behind Web mainstays like e-mails, search marketing and display ads.

Many marketers are waiting for concrete proof these channels work before diving into them, Forrester found. Of those not using social media channels, “proof of use” was the No. 1 factor that would encourage trial.

“Consumers are moving so quickly into emerging media that marketers can’t keep up,” Forrester analyst Brian Haven concluded in the report. “We bet marketers calling for ‘proof of use’ really need to increase their own familiarity with the medium and its application for their customers.”

Despite the hesitancy from a sizeable percentage of marketers, the research firm reported a large increase in use and plans for emerging media compared to a year ago. For instance, 13 percent of respondents reported active blog programs in 2006, which rose to 34 percent this year. By the end of the year, over half of the marketers expect to have blog initiatives up and running.

Social networks should see a larger jump. While just over 20 percent of marketers are using social networks now, nearly 60 plan to do so by the end of the year. In 2006, just 13 percent of respondents said they were using social networks.

The user-generated story is similar. About 22 percent said they have initiatives in place, while over 65 percent plan to by the end of the year.

Other emerging media tactics, like RSS and podcasts, are also expected to gain widespread adoption by the end of the year, with more than two out of three respondents planning to use them.

Forrester found that not all emerging channels are catching on as quickly.

Despite much hype, marketers are still wary to jump into mobile marketing and gaming. Just 13 percent reported using text messaging for marketing and 11 percent have mobile Web sites. Virtual worlds were used by just 7 percent of respondents, with about 25 percent expecting a presence in 2007.

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