Sustained success in social marketing now requires paid advertising according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. Eighty percent of social marketers surveyed say they have or will have social advertising programs, and nearly two-thirds will have employee and/or customer advocacy programs in place within 12 month.
Gartner's 2016 Digital Marketing Channel survey took place from March through May 2016 to better understand the current and planned use of social and mobile marketing activities. Responses came from 250 marketing leaders across North America.
"Declining organic reach of social posts may have kick-started marketing investments in social advertising, but the benefits, such as improved targeting and measurement, have sustained and increased those investments," said Jay Wilson, research director at Gartner. "Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they have a social advertising program in place right now but that number will more than double in the coming year, with an additional 42 percent starting social advertising efforts for the first time."
Nonetheless, mature social marketers recognize that advertising alone can't sustain a successful program, and many are looking to the advocate stage of the customer journey. As a starting point, many marketers are turning to employees and their social networks as a way to extend reach and build trust. Thirty six percent of marketers already have an employee advocacy program in place, with another 27 percent planning implementation in the coming year. Although employees are a natural source of brand advocacy in social, marketers are also turning to customers and influencers to support advocacy efforts.
"Influencer marketing programs that identify, engage and provide a value exchange between brands, industry thought leaders, content creators, celebrities and media outlets are a prime way to scale advocacy in social," said Mr. Wilson. "These programs are also on the rise as a hedge against declining reach of brand posts. Thirty five percent of marketers surveyed have these programs in place, with another 28 percent planning implementation in the coming year."
While marketers view social media as an effective channel for driving traffic to their sites, it is less successful at enabling the conversion and transaction stages of the buyer journey. When asked to rank their most effective social media marketing elements, survey respondents placed buy buttons and conversion on social networking sites as the sixth and seventh priorities respectively, with shoppable content coming in close to last. The three tactics are closely related and are in relatively early stages of maturity.
The survey also found that marketing's role in social customer care continues to evolve as social channels multiply and customer expectations for timely and relevant interactions grow. Gartner forecasts that by 2019, requests for customer support through consumer mobile messaging apps will exceed requests for customer support through traditional social media. To support the growing number of social interactions across social sites, 59 percent of social marketers surveyed say their companies use social engagement and social customer service technology. Nearly two-thirds of marketers plan to increase their investments in this area in the coming year.
Gartner clients can read more in the report: "Digital Channel Survey 2016: Social Marketers Expand Tactics for Results."
This research is part of the Gartner for Marketing Leaders program. This program provides real-time, personalized digital marketing guidance, from vision through execution. Gartner for Marketing Leaders is focused on helping digital marketers succeed in eight key areas: emerging digital marketing trends and techniques, social marketing, mobile marketing, monetizing digital marketing through commerce, multichannel marketing, data-driven marketing, digital marketing essentials and digital marketing programs. For additional details, email GML@gartner.com.