When it comes to Facebook, the nation's marketers have reached an overwhelming consensus: you simply have to be there.
Unfortunately for Facebook, they also have reached another: advertising on Facebook isn't necessarily required.
Those are the biggest takeaways from a survey of Advertising Age readers conducted in conjunction with Citigroup to gain insight on how marketers view Facebook and what their specific plans are in terms of spending marketing budgets there. (The full results are available to DataCenter subscribers).
The 658 subscribers who took Ad Age 's survey over the past two weeks characterized themselves as decision-makers in social marketing. The respondents were 34% marketers, 34% agency execs, 13% media execs, and various consultants and other members of the marketing ecosystem.
The results were a mixed bag for Facebook that illuminated some of the challenges it will have in scaling ad revenue, but it also indicated that some of Facebook's perceived challenges with marketers -- such as not providing enough transparency and data -- are overblown.
The results also revealed confusion on how to calculate return on investment on Facebook and how to compare that to spending in other social and traditional media channels.
Remarkably, Ad Age readers surveyed speak in virtual unison on two questions. Nearly 86% of those surveyed say they currently use Facebook as a marketing tactic. Only 55%, however, say they currently advertise on Facebook, and nearly 88% said they would implement Facebook content without advertising at all.
Those results closely mirror what we've heard in conversations with marketers, particularly after GM revealed that it was pulling its ad dollars from Facebook even as it spent tens of millions to build and maintain the presence of their many auto brands on Facebook.
Of the readers surveyed, 47% said their digital ad budgets were still less than 20% of their total. Nearly 50% said their budgets designated for social-media marketing were less than 10%. That said, 77% said they expected their digital-marketing budgets to increase in the coming year, while 73% said they expected their social-media advertising budget to increase.
While 72% said they expected their social-media advertising budget to increase, only 56.6% said they thought their Facebook advertising budget would increase, while nearly 40% believed it would stay the same.
"I think it comes down to measurement," said Michael Scissons, CEO of Syncapse. "If you are a direct-response marketer it's easy to measure. If you're a brand marketer, it becomes much more intangible to track the point of sale."
That said, 72% said they consider their Facebook content efforts and advertising strategies to be linked, showing a widespread belief in the interplay between earned and paid media on Facebook. A sponsored story, for example, is just Facebook content turned into an ad and shown to more people. As the theory goes, the better the content, the more effective the ad.