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Social media not a core part of marketing for most

LONDON - Less than a quarter of marketers have made social media a core part of their communications strategy, although budgets are set to significantly rise in 2010 among those using it, according to research by the IAB.

Twitter: 'social media channel of choice in 2009'

Twitter: 'social media channel of choice in 2009'

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The Internet Advertising Bureau study found that the vast majority of brands – almost 88% in all – see social media as important to their business, and that has led to a rise in budgets for 2010.

Of the 80 senior-level marketers contacted the IAB found that around a third, compared to 14% in 2009, will invest between 6% and 20% of their digital marketing budgets in social media. That's a rise of more than 40% on what was being spent last year.

However, while budgets are rising and interest is steadily growing, only 22% of those surveyed have already made social media a core part of their communications strategy, and only 20% use it in most campaigns.

Pointers to why social media has not become a core part of marketing campaigns for the majority are found in the research, which highlights challenges such as ensuring clarity of new social concepts, crowd-sourcing, its effectiveness as a measurement tool, and proving ROI.

The research follows data released earlier this month, also from the IAB, which found that three-quarters of brand marketers said that social media's biggest challenge is proving it can deliver ROI, and 64% saw measurement as the most significant hurdle to investment.

The IAB research chimed with recent reports in the US that said that marketers from some major companies including Procter & Gamble, Hyundai and Converse had no time for Twitter.

However, more US research released today into social media activity of Fortune 500 companies by the Society for New Communications Research and Financial Insite, said that Twitter was the social media channel of choice in 2009.

It found that 35% (or 173 firms) of the Fortune 500 have active Twitter accounts (a post within the past thirty days); and nearly 50% of the top 100 companies (47) have a Twitter account.

It said that 80% — four of the top five corporations – namely Wal-Mart, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and General Electric – consistently post on their Twitter accounts.

That said, the number one-ranked company, Exxon Mobil, does not have a Twitter account.

Industry wide, it is the insurance industry where the most Twitter accounts exits in the Fortune 500, with 13 having a Twitter account.

The IAB said that its popularity among marketers, including some from major international brands, is a key driver behind the continued rise in uptake. Notably, while most (73%) see social media as being owned by the marketing department, this is not the case with everyone.

The majority of marketers or 77% say that they are using it to drive awareness; 75% use it for engagement and advocacy purposes, and 47% using it for research to drive sales.

Despite the obstacles, Guy Phillipson, the IAB's CEO, sees social media potentially sitting at the centre of many brands in the future.

"If leveraged correctly, social media has the potential to sit at the very heart of an organisation. Business leaders need to consider its role across an organisation's entire operation and consider its strategic value to communications, promotion, insights and customer care," Phillipson said.

In terms of specific platforms, the research shows that Twitter is most important with Facebook coming second. The study found that Twitter and social media monitoring was being used by 51% of brands and 47% using Facebook.

Branded communities were cited by 39%, and blogger outreach, UGC, video distribution on an equally influential footing.

More on Brand Republic blogs

Social media confusion and the problem with ROI

Marketers with no time for Twitter

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