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Better customer engagement is marketers’ top social media business objective, per results of an Awareness survey released in September 2012. 78% of respondents said better customer engagement was a social media business objective, first on a short list ahead of revenue generation (51%), better customer experience (47%), and increased thought leadership (41%). Operational efficiency (14%) is perceived to be a top objective by far fewer marketers, while 10% cited other objectives.

An IBM survey of more than 1700 global CEOs released in May 2012 found that social media will become one of the dominant customer engagement tools in the next 3-5 years, despite being the least utilized tool for interaction today.

Increased Presence Top Investment Priority

Asked to name their top areas of social marketing investment, a majority of marketers pointed to 2 outward-facing priorities: increased presence across social media platforms (66%); and increased frequency of content publishing (56%). Increased presence was also the top social media investment priority among marketers responding to an earlier Awareness survey released in December 2011.

Beyond the top 2 external-facing priorities, respondents to the most recent survey appear to be focusing on more internal and functional areas. Half said they would be investing in better social marketing integration with the rest of their companies’ marketing objectives, and 35% on better integration with the rest of their organizations. Social media integration certainly appears to be a pain point for marketers – a Duke University survey of CMOs released in August found just 1 in 5 respondents rating their social media integration a top-2 box score on a 7-point scale of integration (where 7 indicates very integrated). By comparison, 16.7% said social media was not at all integrated, with a rating of 1, and a further 13.3% scored their integration a 2.

Meanwhile, details from Awareness’ “The State of Social Media Marketing” indicates that 38% of respondents will be investing in more robust social media monitoring and 37% more robust social marketing management. Just 28% named mobile social media a top area of investment, though this may become more of a focus over time: recent data from comScore shows that mobile social networking is becoming more popular in the US.

Social Presence Most Popular Measure of Effectiveness

One reason why marketers may be investing in increasing their social presence is due to an ease in measuring followers and fans. Virtually all (96%) of the marketers responding to the Awareness survey measure their brand’s social media effectiveness by social presence (the number of followers and fans). 89% measure effectiveness in terms of traffic to their websites, while fewer use measures like share of voice (55%) and sentiment (51%).

In measuring customer engagement, 84% track all channels (websites, social media, call center), while roughly two-thirds measure customer satisfaction (66%) and almost 3 in 5 issue resolution.

Customer satisfaction is strongly on the rise as a social media marketing priority, as revealed in the “State of Search Marketing Report 2012” from Econsultancy, in association with SEMPO; and it is narrowing the gap with brand awareness as a top objective. While 57% of agencies in 2010 reported brand awareness as their clients’ top social media priority, that figure fell to 51% in 2011 and 35% this year. By contrast, improving customer service and/or satisfaction has become much more of a priority, rising from 8% of agency respondents in 2010 to 11% last year, before jumping to 20% this year.

ROI Measurement Still A Challenge

In the Awareness survey, 62% of marketers reported measuring revenue generation by the number of new customers, followed by leads (60%) and sales (59%). Still, measuring ROI was the top social media marketing challenge, cited by 57% respondents. The leading difficulties in measuring social media ROI are that: it is hard to tie social media to actual business results (54%); it is hard to analyze unstructured social media data (also 54%); and it is hard to integrate disparate social media data resources (50%).

Just 60% of marketers actively measure social ROI according to a July 2012 report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), while far larger proportions have processes in place to measure the effectiveness of SEM-paid keyword (90%), websites (89%), email marketing (88%), online ads (88%), SEO-organic (81%), and mobile (70%).

About The Data: Awareness surveyed 469 marketers from a cross section of industries, company sizes and levels of social marketing expertise. Respondents also came from a cross-section of executives, managers and those who support the social marketing functions within their organizations.

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