MEGN Survey: Social media marketing still unproven

The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) recently completed a survey that suggested that social media marketing may not be the must-have marketing method that many believe it to be. While there have been obvious successes (such as for fundraising and volunteer recruiting), the actual worth of social marketing for the average company has yet to be proven.

One of the questions MENG asked of the 139 survey respondents was whether or not they were able to measure the ROI of social media marketing efforts. The replies were disappointing for those pushing social media marketing as a required component of marketing campaigns: 33.1% replied that they were never able to determine ROI, while an additional 25.6% replied that they "hardly ever" knew if their social media efforts were worthwhile. In addition, only 26.3% of respondents thought that social media marketing was more effective than using other online media for marketing, such as search advertising or display ads.

The majority of the marketing executives who responded to the survey indicated that they felt there were still in the beginner and advanced beginner stages of actually using social media marketing, and 58.5% admitted that less than 5% of their total advertising and promotion budget was dedicated to social media marketing. Over 50% did, however, feel that it was "absolutely" critical" for marketing professionals to become proficient in using social media for their marketing campaigns.

In contrast to this "critical" requirement, however, 42% indicated that their company's employees were not allowed to participate in social media as company representatives. In addition, while 92.7% were members of LinkedIn, only 41.1% had a presence on either MySpace or Facebook, and only 23.4% wrote a blog.

MENG's survey may disappoint supporters of social media for marketing, but until companies can see a clear ROI on their efforts, social media marketing is still going to be a tiny percentage of a company's overall marketing effort. That isn't good news for Web 2.0 companies who've built their communities based on an ad- or marketing-supported revenue model and are facing the current economy.