Social Media Playtime Is Over

That Many Marketers Still 'Experimenting' Is Not a Good Sign

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B.L. Ochman
B.L. Ochman
Fifty percent of corporations surveyed in Forrester Research's "Social Media Playtime is Over" report are increasing social media spending in the face of the recession. But that's far from the point of the recently released report.

Three-quarters of those surveyed who knew their budgets said they allowed for $100,000 or less for social media tools over a 12-month period, according to the report, written by Forrester analyst Jeremiah K. Owyang. And they are not integrating social media into their overall marketing strategy. Instead, they are "experimenting" with isolated tactics and hoping that they will take the place of long-term strategy.

Furthermore, Owyang notes, social media is more of an after-thought than a marketing line item. "45-percent of marketers say their social budgets are determined as needed and 23-percent say they scrape together funds from wherever they can find them."

"Our data shows that marketers intend to invest more in social media but have yet to justify substantial budgets. If you continue to fund social applications only as experiments, you're unlikely to be able to do enough to make an impact or to have a secure source of funding for the future. One way to put these efforts on a firmer footing is to concentrate on objectives and measure progress toward those objectives, rather than just experimenting to see what happens. ... Without concentrating on measurable objectives, it will be difficult to justify further investment in the future."

"...As one of the few marketing budget items increasing during a recession, social media marketing needs to be taken seriously and treated as a corporate asset. To be successful, social media marketing must be managed as long-term programs, not short-term experiments. To succeed, make sure you have dedicated resources in place, including both social media strategists and community managers," writes Owyang.

Unfortunately, many social media strategists are still confronting conversations like this one, recently reported to me by a fellow social media strategist:

CMO: We want you to get bloggers to write about our site and generate 250K monthly visits through their posts.

Agency: What is your demographic? What is your goal for that traffic?

CMO: We want them to spend money on the site, and we want to see how much traffic social media can generate.

Agency: What support will you give to your "experiment"? Does your budget include search engine optimization? PR? Google advertising? Company blog? Advertising on targeted blogs? A forum? An interactive website? Content sponsorship? Sponsored blog posts? Videos? Print advertising? Email campaign?

CMO: Those cost money. We don't have budget available for any of those.

Agency: Who on your staff has this campaign as his/her full-time responsibility?

CMO: Nobody.

Agency: What other marketing tools can we employ? Can we create a blog? Facebook page? Flickr group? YouTube videos? Twitter? Can we participate in social networks including Friend Feed and other online communities?

CMO: Our legal department says we cannot allow people to write on the wall on our Facebook pages. We can't participate in Twitter because everything we say has to pass through legal first and approval can take several days. So any site where we are expected to engage in public conversation would be out.

As the Forrester study indicates, until the corporate side of that conversation changes. not much else will. In other words, companies need to KISS.

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B.L. Ochman is a marketing strategist and blogger and can be found at or her newest venture,

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