CMO Survey

These days, some marketers are beginning to feel a little less social. While social media marketing continues to grow at double-digit paces, actual spending has not kept up with projections and some brands are struggling to prove the return on investment from their activity on social media networks, according to a report by The CMO Survey.

The survey finds that social media marketing has accounted for about 11.7% of marketing budgets this year, up from 3.5% in 2009. And while that growth is impressive—translating to a 234% increase—the figures fall short of expectations. Five years ago, marketers said by 2016 social media would represent 17.5% of marketing spending.

The CMO Survey says several factors may have contributed to the lower-than-expected budgeting, including a “bandwagon effect,” where companies got excited about social media and said they’d spend more than they actually did. Another factor, the CMO Survey says, is that companies may not be properly accounting for social media spending. And still another possibility is social media marketing is being funded from another area of a company’s budget. “In other words, actual spending may be as high as the marketers’ earlier expectations, but it may be sourced from other budgets,” the report explains.

The final explanation may have the biggest implication for future social media spending: Some companies have struggled to prove ROI on social media activity. According to the survey, 44% of respondents say they haven’t been able to show the impact of the spend. That impact could be seen through related purchasing or activity on other media. “Success in the social world of marketing requires a deep connection to the customer and the ability to drive a transformation of the company to embrace a whole new type of customer engagement,” the report says. “Many companies lack the knowledge and skills to make this happen.”

Radio stations are heavy users of social media, in particular Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which have allowed many radio broadcasters to develop their own social media marketing, as well as integrating social elements into their own digital sales efforts for clients. As social media networks have matured, though, radio stations are encountering obstacles to these efforts. Social networks, particularly Facebook, have honed ways to keep users within the Facebook ecosystem, rather than sending traffic to third-party websites. That way, Facebook retains the users and the traffic for its purposes; that, however, keeps a web publisher—a radio station or a brand—from capturing those users on their own properties, where they can monetize the traffic or get users to engage more deeply with content, such as exploring website features or signing up for emails.

Among social media marketing platforms, social networks, video and photo sharing and blogging platforms are the most popular. In 2016, 72.5% of marketers using social media utilized social networks, including Facebook, while 49.8% used photo and video sharing sites such as YouTube and Instagram, and 44% used blogging. However, use of photo and video sites and blogging have decreased since 2009, while social network use is up and microblogging, which includes Twitter, also increased.