Austin is the “Silicon Valley” of social media. It is a hub of thought leadership, venture capital and resources for the burgeoning social marketing industry. It’s not surprising then that the interactive conference at Austin’s hugely popular SXSW festival has become a “must-go” for both social marketing experts and those who want to learn more.

This year, the Council of Public Relations Firms (CPRF) invited ComBlu to lead a panel they are sponsoring at “SouthBY.”

Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social—Is It Working?

Wisdom has it that the smart money is going social. To add impact to their communications programs, brands are moving dollars into socially-focused campaigns. But is it working? Has the transfer translated into bigger and/or better campaigns? How and with whom? Have we reached a saturation point? Panelists will assess the impact inside and outside their organizations by this shift in priorities—and budget.

This will be an interesting and timely discussion. According to a recent study by FedEx and Ketchum, marketers spent between five and 15 percent of their overall external communications budgets on social media. Most companies predict budget increases for social media in 2011. A recent study by eMarketer predicts that social budgets will increase by 60 percent in 2011. And, during a recent presentation, Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group stated that budgets for formalized and mature social organizations peak at $1.3 million per year; more if you add online community budgets to the mix. In addition, investments in talent with social media skills are growing on both the corporate and agency sides.

Yet, while budgets are growing, marketers are still struggling to figure out the impact of social marketing. A recent study of 2,100 marketing executives by Harvard Business Review Analytics (for SAS) uncovered that just 12 percent feel they are effectively using social media. In addition, 75 percent said they didn’t know where their customers were talking about them online; 31 percent claimed they do not know how to effectively measure social programs; and just 23 percent said they are using social media analytics tools.

Measuring true social ROI is on the top ten list of almost every post of predictions and trends for 2011 that I have seen. As marketers, we have an obligation to help our organization or clients understand how to be savvy users of social tools. We need to be the experts in calculating and driving true social ROI. We need to go beyond a campaign orientation and deeply engage with customers and other stakeholders in meaningful ways. According to a recent survey by Alterian, 51 percent of respondents are placing a significant amount of effort and budget on moving from a campaign orientation toward a multi-channel customer engagement model. Many programs today are still tactically focused and lack the tools, analytics and faceted approach to engagement necessary for true ROI.

The opportunity is here for all of us, but it takes commitment to a continuous learning approach, as the industry is evolving very quickly. And, it takes more than hiring “kids” who grew up on Facebook. The panel that the Council is sponsoring at SXSW is a great opportunity to hear from brands about their expectations for the role of social and how their investments in this area are changing. The panel includes David Witt from General Mills, Julie Hamp from PepsiCo and Kris Narayanan from Samsung.

If you’re going to be in Austin for SXSW, please join us. The panel is on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Hotel. Come get your social groove in gear! I’ll report after the panel any interesting insights gleaned from this savvy group of marketers.

Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman

Kathy’s forte is enterprise content strategy, content marketing and thought leadership. Over the past 40 years, she has worked with both emerging brands and large enterprises in developing content and thought leadership strategies. She has written several research reports, white papers and has been a key contributor to Forbes Publish or Perish Report.