2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report Highlights Business Use of Social Media

If you’re looking to grow your enterprise quickly and easily, you’ve probably surmised that social media can be a valuable tool for marketing your business – but you may still need to learn a few specifics. Where do you turn? What tools do you use? How do you budget your time?

sm_report2.fwSocial Media Examiner answered all these questions and more with the release of the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. The publication, authored by Michael A. Stelzner, outlines the social sites that business leaders are using today and the progress they’re making with those sites.

Questions remain unanswered
At this juncture, the realm of social media has already been explored fairly thoroughly, but marketers still have a lot of questions still to answer.

For one, they need to know which tactics are most effective. Should they be publishing lots of content in quick bursts, or going for thought leadership with longer, more insightful content?

They want to know how best to engage their audiences. What sites, what content types and what time slots are most effective?

They need to measure the return on their investment. For every dollar that they put into social media, how much are they likely to make back? If it’s not enough, then how can they make more?

Tools for managing social content are important. If you’re active on a lot of sites, you need to have the right gadgets and software for curating your complete social presence.

Finally, marketers need to identify a target audience and deliver them the content they desire. It’s important to figure that out in advance rather than “wing it” later.

Budgeting time effectively
One of the most important questions about social media marketing is how much time to sink into it. Increasingly nowadays, entrepreneurs are carving out more hours for the endeavor each week.

When asked how many hours per week they commit to social media marketing, only 2 percent said none at all, and 34 percent said between 1 and 5. That means a clear majority – 64 percent – of marketers are using social media for 6 hours or more. Even more staggeringly, 37 percent report using social sites for 11 hours or more every week.

These numbers vary based on a few factors. One is experience – the longer someone has been using social media, the more likely they are to spend time on it. Among people just starting out, 51 percent use the sites for 5 hours or less each week, while among the experienced users (2 years or more), 65 percent spend 6 hours or more on social per week.

Another factor is age – heavy social use skews younger. Among those who spend more than 40 hours per week on social media, 68 percent are under 40.

sm_report_2The benefits of social media
There are many, many positive side effects that a company can expect when delving deeper into social media. It’s up to marketers to devise their own goals.

The most common effect of social use, according to the 2014 report, is increased exposure to the brand – an overwhelming 92 percent of marketers said they noticed that benefit. A few other notable pluses included increased web traffic (cited by 80 percent of respondents), development of loyal fans (72 percent) and better marketplace insight (71 percent).

There are plenty more, too. For example, many marketers say that after a few years of consistent social use, they begin to see increased sales. They find it easier to generate leads for sales opportunities in the first place, and they also have a better time building business partnerships over time.

Social users are also likely to see reduced marketing expenses. Because their rankings in search engines often improve, they don’t need to put as much money into other ways of generating exposure online. This means they can reallocate funds into other areas and improve their enterprises.

Which sites work best?
One of the biggest questions that companies need to answer when they get into social media is which platforms to use. There are so many out there – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and more – that it’s difficult to choose.

This year’s research shows that Facebook is still king, used by 94 percent of businesses today, but others are not far behind. Twitter now has an 83 percent share of the business world, followed by LinkedIn at 71 percent.

There are many factors influencing companies’ specific choices, though. Again, experience is one – among social media neophytes, Facebook is the dominant site by far, while Twitter and YouTube begin to gain prominence with marketers who have a year or two of experience.

The marketers with the highest levels of social media experience – 5 years or more – have set their sights on more advanced areas of content generation. Among this group, 74 percent now say they’re focusing on making YouTube videos, while 71 percent are also blogging and even 15 percent are podcasting.

social_visualLooking to the future
Finally, it’s important to ask – where is this all going? Where will social media marketers set their sights in the years ahead?

This year’s survey data shows that a few trends are afoot. The biggest one is more written content – 81 percent of marketers say that in the future, they’re going to be writing more. Meanwhile, 73 percent predict that they’ll be producing more videos, and 70 percent are planning on other types of visual assets, like infographics.

It’s not all about original content, either. In the near future, 46 percent of companies also say they’ll focus on curating other people’s material to give their social media presence a little extra boost.

Of course, the traditional sites will see an uptick too. When asked about increasing the use of the usual social platforms, marketers said that they’re planning on more Twitter (67 percent), more LinkedIn (64 percent) and more Facebook (64 percent). Today’s social media are here to stay.

Social media is a massive presence in today’s corporate landscape, and it isn’t going anywhere. What lessons are you learning about marketing your business?

Download the 2014 ReportĀ  (Free Download Available Until May 30th)