Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marketers Take a Needed Pause

In the 20 years I have worked as a public relations and (now) social media marketing consultant, I have come to subscribe to an important truism that defines my professional life:  never let the highs be too high or the lows too low.

This past December I was certainly riding a high.  Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) had spent the better part of the past three years developing a unique, sales-oriented methodology for social media engagement in a B2B and business-to-government environment.

We had validated our approach on behalf of a set of the largest, most respected technology companies in the world.  Plus, we were in the process of confirming new social media campaigns with three additional market leaders – Computer Sciences Corporation, Pitney Bowes and Polycom.

Social media buzz was further stoked by trade magazines and analyst firms projecting rapid acceleration of client spending.  Our sales pipeline was frothy.  I sported an air of confidence akin to my pre dot-com implosion chest thumping.

And then…and then…and then…a whole lot of pause and reflection among marketers.  We’ve still delivered well on our existing client programs, yet continuation of funding and the identification of new initiatives have been tough to come by.

It is as if the gloss of social media rapidly dulled based on demands from internal corporate audiences to prove out effectiveness and ROI.  My suspicion has been somewhat confirmed based on a new survey from IBM which found:

More than half of marketers use social media, but based on responses, their enthusiasm is tempered, suggesting that the peak of inflated expectations has passed; marketers are focused on finding the value that social channels can yield with more targeted insights and actions.

While this slow down in adoption and implementation is personally frustrating, it is an absolute requirement for social media to emerge as a core and planned component of an integrated marketing program.

Spend on social media often resides in a company’s experimental budget bucket.  That’s a “nice to have” tag, rather than a “must do.”

For social media to rise in importance, corporate marketers have to ask the tough questions related to ROI, best practices, effective tools and technologies, and resource allocation.  Consultants must stand ready to share advice and set realistic expectations.

The social media high may be tempered a bit.  Yet, I’m committed to the belief that this channel presents dynamic and exciting opportunities for marketers. 

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