How are the world's biggest brands leveraging social marketing for business?
That seemingly straightforward question has remained unanswered from a research perspective to this point. While a number of studies have shed light onto a broad spectrum of social marketing strategies, combining data from small, medium and large businesses together, targeted research analyzing social marketing at big brands has yet to been conducted. At the start of the New Year, we committed to answer that very question.
In Q1 2014, Spredfast commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct research to uncover trends across enterprise social marketing programs. The study focused on senior marketing leaders at the world's biggest brands surveying 160 Director, Vice President or CMO-level professionals working in companies with $1 Billion or above in revenue across the U.S. and Western Europe. The study benchmarked the current state of social marketing, as well as surfaced a number of key strategies, tactics and business implications. Four key trends emerged from the research findings:
1. Social is a growing priority for the world's largest brands.
When asked about the value and priority of social marketing, companies overwhelmingly report social marketing to be a high, and growing, priority from the top-down.
- 78% of enterprise companies place the responsibility of social marketing under a CMO, C-Level executive or an Executive/Vice President.
- 69% of marketers agree their company is prioritizing social marketing based on the way it is organized and executed
- Both staffing (69%) and budget for social marketing (68%) are increasing - with social budget increasing at a greater rate than total worldwide budget (55%).
2. Audience involvement is dominant goal.
A leading focus for social marketing is concentrated on brands involving, and interacting with, their audiences based on the tactics deployed, measurement approach of business value and internal processes adopted.
- Tactics are being deployed to foster audience involvement, with 69% of companies encouraging and/or recognizing customers that talk about them on social networks.
- To determine the business value of social marketing, 73% of big brands measure audience resonance (using engagement metrics of comments, responses, shares).
- Further highlighting the priority of audience, the majority of companies have a process in place to deliver relevant both relevant and timely content across social marketing channels.
3. Enterprise marketers are focused on measuring (what matters).
Brand awareness and brand preference are the leading social business objectives and companies are aligning efforts to measure performance accordingly. Reach and resonance are the two top measurement areas, and brands are using data to gain actionable insight from social marketing.
- 76% measure Volume metrics, indicating the number of individuals reached by social messaging, and 73% measure Engagement metrics, indicating the level of interest and interaction from those audiences.
- 74% of companies are using data and insights to identify social marketing tactics that influence customers
- Measurement for social marketing is dynamic with 73% of companies continually evolving and defining best practices on how they measure business value created by social marketing tactics.
4. Social is being connected to owned, brand marketing channels.
Strategies and tactics behind social marketing do not exist and operate individually; corporate social marketing tactics and public social content are now part of a wider marketing scope.
- 81% of companies use web analytic tools to measure the business value of social marketing - connecting this to other digital properties
- 67% of enterprise companies are integrating social with broader (non-social) marketing efforts.
- 61% of companies use social content curation on owned channels, and with 73% satisfied with business value, it's also one of the most valuable tactics.
Netting out implications for marketers at big brands:
With the length and depth of findings, there's much to be learned from what the biggest brands are doing across social marketing programs. But even more importantly, there are opportunities to put these findings to use. While no two companies will have the exact same needs, a number of takeaways shine through the expansive data set.
Big brands now have the ability to benchmark social marketing strategies across their peer set.
True, there are many layers to the social marketing landscape, but this data can be used to more accurately answer "how does our brand's social marketing program compare to other enterprises?"
Efficiency and process should remain top-of-mind for brands committed to growing social marketing.
Budget and staff growth plans are on the rise, but businesses still need additional capabilities and support. Both of these signal that efficiency will be crucial in leveraging existing (and upcoming additions to) resources. Processes and technology will help sustain and expand successful growth, and an additional focus on employee training will maximize effectiveness of both tactics and measurement.
Increasingly, social should be connected to the larger marketing picture to build better customer experiences.
The research highlights that social marketing is primarily focused on brand marketing - brand awareness and brand preference - and that corporate programs are connecting these activities on social networks with tactics on owned brand channels. The increased integration of social into broader marketing channels, and the high satisfaction of these tactics' business value, reveal that a wealth of opportunities exist with social integration and how these are positively impacting customer relationships and the ability to better inform social strategies.
Rather than simply measuring more data, companies need to focus on making more matter with measurement practices.
It's clear from the research that measurement of social still poses challenges for brands, but those with defined practices in place are actually using the data beyond reporting: they're harnessing the insight to inform and optimize strategies that influence customer behaviors. For this reason, companies need to establish effective, ongoing measurement programs. In doing so, they will equip their organizations with the ability to surface actionable insights, and ultimately, create more results-oriented social marketing programs.
How does your social marketing compare to that of the industry's biggest companies? And what are you planning to accelerate the impact social will have across your business?
Download your copy of The 2014 State of Enterprise Social Marketing Report to answer these and more questions.