Businesses remain torn over whether the best strategy is to manage
social media through their corporate communications group, their
marketing department, or a separate social-media group. Adding to
the complexity: marketers are inundated with pitches from ad
agencies, PR agencies and social-media vendors -- all hungry for
new projects for 2011.
Social media is free, right? In some business
sectors, the thinking still holds that social media is free, or
nearly free. Although earned media -- the value that companies get
when their marketing messages spread virally -- is indeed free
publicity, there is almost always a cost associated with it,
whether it be staffing, creative development or monitoring the
The good news is most marketers say they are increasing
social-media spending next year. But the actual dollar amounts are
all over the map.
In a worldwide survey by SEOmoz, a
search-marketing company, more than half of the 9,000 respondents
said their budget for outsourced social-media marketing was zero.
Only 2.9% said they spent more than $5,000 per month.
On the other end of the spectrum is Altimeter Group, which
surveyed 140 social-media strategists at major businesses for a
report on the corporate
social-media strategist function. One-third of respondents
indicated that their company was spending between $100,000 to
$500,000 in 2010, and 23% had a budget of $500,000 or more. These
companies can be considered among the leading adopters of social
There are few benchmarks. Marketers don't agree
on how much of their marketing budgets they should spend on social
media. Surveys indicate that marketers spend 4% to 11% of their
online marketing budgets on social media. This wide divergence is
indicative of the fact that social-media marketing budgets are
spread across multiple departments and groups, and that some types
of companies and industries are more advanced than others.
What does this mean? Even if companies find it impossible to set
a specific budget for social media, they can still take a holistic
approach, incorporating it into their marketing planning from the
start. At General Motors, budgets for social media next year will
come from the brand marketing groups, according to social media
chief Christopher Barger.
That means GM will do a better job of aligning its social
strategy with the rest of its marketing strategy. And by shifting
management to the brand groups, it does something more important:
it gives social media a place at the adults' dinner table, not the
That, in the end, may be a better strategy. Maybe marketers
should worry less about how much they are spending on social media,
or whether there should be a separate budget, and more about
whether those dollars are working as hard as they can, producing
real, quantifiable results.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Williamson is a principal analyst at eMarketer.