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gartner-social-ad-influencer-advocacy-program-adoption-oct2016More than one-third of North American marketing leaders have a social advertising program in place, but that figure is expected to more than double in the coming year as 42% plan to start advertising on social media for the first time. That’s according to results from Gartner’s 2016 Digital Marketing Channel survey, which polled 250 marketing leaders across North America.

Social media ads are having an increasing impact on consumers’ purchase decisions, according to MarketingCharts’ 3rd annual Advertising Channels With the Largest Purchase Influence on Consumers study. Social ad saw an increase in stated influence across demographic groups, with Millennials now placing social second only to TV among paid media.

The Gartner report also notes that investment in social engagement and social customer service technology is on the upswing, with two-thirds planning to increase their investments in the coming year. Marketing leaders are focusing on these areas rather than social commerce, as buy buttons, conversion, and shoppable content are the tactics that are among the lowest-ranked in terms of social priorities.

Meanwhile, the Gartner report also finds growing interest in employee advocacy and influencer marketing programs. Some 36% of marketing leaders already have an employee advocacy program, but another 27% plan to implement one in the coming year. This also emerged as a key area for increased efforts in research last year examining social business areas.

While the Gartner analysts link influencer marketing interest to declining organic social post reach, this is also a core motivation for employee advocacy programs. In fact, recent research suggests that increasing the reach of messages in social networks is actually the top business driver for investment in employee advocacy programs.

As for influencer marketing, which relies on social capital and the influencer’s authenticity, 35% of the Gartner survey respondents report a program being in place, while another 28% plan implementation in the next 12 months.

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