Econsultancy and LBi / bigmouthmedia have launched the 2011 State of Social Media survey, which aims to benchmark trends and levels of spending within the market. 

As with similar studies published in 2009 and 2010, the research is based on a survey of client-side marketers and in-house PR professionals, as well as agencies, consultants and other specialists working in the social media arena. 

More than 600 companies have already completed the survey since Friday, a great response which shows that interest in this topic shows no sign of abating. 

Respondents taking part in this research will get a free, advance copy of the final research report, normally worth £250 ($400) and only available to Econsultancy paying subscribers.

As with last year’s research, the survey covers a wide range of topics including social media content, budgets, resourcing and metrics, as well as specific questions about the use of Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Last year’s results indicated that investment is still modest, with 28% of respondents in 2010 not spending anything on social media. A third of companies (33%) were spending less than £5,000 annually. It’s been suggested that the lack of investment specifically relates to a lack of understanding about how to measure the impact of social media, and it will be useful to see how this has changed over the last year.

A lack of investment can prevent some companies from being able to measure the impact of social media as effectively as they would like, as organisations need to have the right tools, people and processes in place to benchmark how they are performing. And, lack of investment can also prevent companies from effective social media in the first place.

In last year’s survey, some 83% of companies reported that they expected social media investment to increase over the next year, and it will be noteworthy to see how many companies have followed through with this plan for increased investment.

An interesting addition to this latest social media survey is the introduction of Google+. Although companies cannot have a professional profile on Google+ yet, publishers can place the +1 button on their site, meaning that users can recommend links to people in their ‘circles’, and also publish and share content on their Google Plus profiles. Google has said that pages for businesses are due to be launched later this year.

The deadline for taking part in this year’s State of Social Media survey is Friday 30 September 2011.