value of social mediaThe majority of marketers are experimenting with social media, and plan to do more of it. Even if they don’t really understand what they’re doing, how to reconcile strategy with tactics…or how to measure ROI and results.

But can you blame them? Social media marketing is evolving at warp speed, and the marketers who showed up at the presentation of Econsultancy’s Value of Social Media Report in San Diego yesterday seemed to take a great deal of solace in learning that they aren’t alone in being at the same time bedazzled and befuddled in the face of so many new marketing channels and challenges.

The report, based on a survey of over 400 client-side marketers and agencies, was undertaken in conjunction with OMS.

Topline tactical findings:

  • Facebook is marketers’ most popular social media marketing site (85%), followed by Twitter (77%)
  • 69% say they’re microblogging on Twitter
  • 57% have created and are maintaining a marketing-related profile on Facebook
  • Over half (51%) are creating and sharing online video

Yet while marketers overwhelmingly say they’re using these channels for “soft” marketing objectives: branding, awareness, reputation and PR, their business objectives in social media channels are decidedly harder: sales and ROI.

Another seeming disconnect is what marketers say they’re spending on social media marketing. Sixty-eight percent say their expediture is from zero to $5,000 annually (and 81% say that number will rise this year). While it may be true that they’re not buying social media, the real cost of their efforts seems higher than they think. Fully 25% of marketers say they dedicate 5-10 hours per week on social media, indicating a real cost in terms of staff, resources and salaries, if not in media buys.

Small wonder most marketers say they’re confused when it comes to measuring the ROI of their social media marketing. In fact, 58% say it would be nice to know social media ROI, but that knowledge isn’t absolutely critical.

This prompted some incredulity from Convince&Convert‘s Jay Baer who quipped, much to the amusement of the audience, “Even though everyone treats it as a unicorn, maybe social media is just a horse? Despite the constant bleating everywhere about the need to map precise ROI to social media, two-thirds of respondents to this large study feel measuring social media is less than critical.”