Fourth Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: Digital Trends for 2012New research about digital marketing trends published today shows that social media engagement is rated as both the top priority and most exciting opportunity for companies this year.

But while the fourth Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing, published by Econsultancy in association with Adobe, shows a huge appetite for social media programmes, there is a worrying lack of commitment to investment in associated analytics and measurement. 

Research for this report found that, along with content optimisation, social media engagement is rated as the top priority for digital marketers out of a range of digital-related marketing activities and disciplines.

Asked to indicate their top three priorities for the year ahead, companies surveyed by Econsultancy and Adobe found that these areas will be more important in 2012 than other disciplines including conversion rate optimisation, mobile optimisation and content marketing.

Social media analytics lagged behind in ninth place. 

More than 600 companies surveyed for this report were also asked about the ‘most exciting’ digital-related opportunities for their organisations in 2012. 

More than half of client-side respondents (54%) said that social media engagement featured among the three most exciting opportunities, way ahead of mobile optimisation (38%) and content optimisation (37%). Again, social analytics is much further down the pecking order, this time in eighth place. 

What are the three most exciting digital-related opportunities for your organisation in 2012? 

While no-one will be surprised that social analytics are not widely seen as being the sexiest element of the social marketing landscape, neglect of this area may explain why many companies are still struggling to justify new hires based on proven upside from social media campaigns. 

The chart below shows that lack of tangible revenue from social media is a key challenge for almost half (48%) of companies surveyed. 

 ‘Social media has added many more programs/goals, but not the revenue to support new hires’

As the report discusses, there are certainly high-profile examples of companies making substantial cost savings and proven return on investment from social media investment.

Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald recently told Wall Street analysts that he was moderating the company’s $10 billion ad budget because digital channels can be “more efficient” than traditional media channels, citing P&G’s Old Spice campaign as an example.

While this campaign’s success wasn’t wholly attributable to social media marketing, it is clear that the social element was fundamental to its massive footprint.

Despite celebrated socially driven campaigns such as the Old Spice example, the chart above suggests that, for many companies, social programmes have so far failed to produce the revenue to support them, let alone produced ROI beyond those investments.

In the briefing, we analyse in more detail why the focus on social media engagement makes sense for most companies (for a range of business objectives), and why this activity needs to be seen as part of a bigger picture with a focus on analytics and attribution.