What you need to know about the state of social media

Google+ has potential, email marketing is still prevalent, and more social media surprises in a new report.

Social Media Examiner recently released its 4th annual survey of social media marketing; 3,800 marketers answered the survey.

Perhaps it’s not statistically valid, but the survey has an impressive number of respondents and provides a solid indication of the state of social media. Several things jumped out at me:

1. Social media remains important to business. It’s no surprise that 83 percent of marketers either agreed or strongly agreed that social media is important to business. What is surprising is 54 percent of solo business owners strongly agreed with this statement. That means small shops with limited time and resources see the most opportunity in using social media. Is that because social media is low cost or valuable?

2. Professionals spend less time on social media in 2012. Just 38 percent of marketers spend one to five hours weekly on social media. Twenty-six percent spend six to 10 hours, and as little as 15 percent spend 20 or more hours each week on social media.

This amazes me because it strikes me as too little time. Maybe experienced professionals have social media all figured out and don’t need to spend any more time on it—everyone is an expert now—but I doubt it. It takes a lot of time to build engagement on social media.

Marketers and PR pros must commit to daily engagement, or they are wasting time. This survey found that “by spending as little as 6 hours per week, 61 percent of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media.” If there’s a proof point for spending more time on social media, that’s it.

3. Google+ has potential, despite the critics. Forty percent of respondents currently use Google+, and another 70 percent said they want to learn more about the tool. The Google+ naysayers are out in force, but with tight integration and sharing across Google’s Web, it’s certainly an opportunity worth watching.

4. Email marketing is still prevalent. Eighty-seven percent of respondents still use email, which makes a good case for integrating social media with email marketing. It also explains why ExactTarget would acquire CoTweet, and why my employer, Vocus, recently acquired iContact.

5. B2B marketers have been using social media longer than B2C marketers. Eighteen percent of B2B marketers, as opposed to 14 percent of B2C marketers, say they’ve used social media for three or more years. This fascinates me, given the plethora of blog posts and questions that examine this issue with the premise that B2B marketers question the value of social media marketing. The fact remains that social media is social, which means it’s about people connecting. Even B2B companies consist of people.

6. YouTube is the top site to increase investment. Seventy-six percent of marketers said they would increase their investment in YouTube marketing. This is the second year in a row that YouTube topped the charts.

Maybe it’s because the “Charlie bit my finger” video made $500,000, or because if pictures are worth a thousand words, than video is worth a million. Greg Jarboe is great person to follow for YouTube marketing tips; he literally wrote the book on how to spend an hour a day marketing on YouTube.

Aside from the numbers, I took a couple of creative marketing ideas from the report itself. The first was the bold move of advertising Social Media Examiner’s social media summit on page nine. The second was the ease at which the document provides social sharing tools. Nearly every page has working share buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. This was a nice touch to encourage people to share what is essentially a white paper.

Read the full report.

Frank Strong is the director of PR for Vocus. He blogs at Sword and the Script, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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