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A New Age for Social Media Marketing

In 2010, Social Media will rapidly escalate from novelty or perceived necessity to an integrated and strategic business communications, service, and information community and ecosystem. Our experiences and education will foster growth and propel us through each stage of the Social Media Marketing evolution.

As MarketingSherpa observes, “2010 is the year where social media marketers gain the experience required to advance from novice to competent practitioner capable of achieving social marketing objectives and proving ROI.”

It’s a powerful prediction and it’s one that I also believe. This is your year to excel, teach, and create your own destiny.

To document the evolution in maturation of new media marketing, MarketingSherpa published its 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report. The undercurrent of the report is rooted in the shift from hype to methodology, observing that many marketers jumped on board Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media platforms without a plan for defining, achieving, or measuring success. The general reaction of the more than 2,300 marketers who participated in the report was that current social media tactics were counter-intuitive to proven marketing principles.

This is why I believe that business success stories shared to date were wonderful to read, but they didn’t necessarily serve as a framework for my work. Too many assumptions have been made and business considerations compromised while they learned how to embrace and employ new media in a very public spotlight.

In the report, MarketingSherpa condenses the ten stages of social media marketing to three phases of maturation:


Research – Monitor target audiences about brands and competition

Objectives – Define objectives with target audiences and social metrics

Actions – Create a social marketing strategy with a definitive plan of action

Devices – Deploy social platforms based on audience, objectives and strategy

Phase I: Trial – no process is used and social platforms are implemented first.
Phase II: Transition – an informal process is used and performed randomly.
Phase III: Strategic – a formal process is used and performed routinely.

I believe to the contrary however. The maturation process of social media enlightenment and mastery is far more sophisticated and incremental. In my experiences, I’ve documented on average ten stages, and in some cases several more – not including the realization of resource costs per engagement and instance. For example, many organizations can assess the cost per tweet, blog post, response, and their impact on achieving objectives. Perhaps that level of social prowess will reside in the 2011 Benchmark Report.

MarketingSherpa asks in which phase of marketing maturity is your organization. With maturity, strategy and effectiveness ensue. Assessing the average of all elements, 40% of organizations reside in the Transition Phase, 66% are experimenting within the Trial Phase, and 23% are advancing, learning and adapting towards the Strategic Phase.

When reviewing the total responses, MarketingSherpa learned that those organizations in the Trial Phase were mostly focused on Devices (Social Media Platforms). Research becomes the catalyst for evolving to the Transition Phase. And as we’ve always learned, actions speak louder than words, and it is Action that catapults brands into the Strategic Phase.

A pattern which started to take shape in early 2009 continues into 2010 – Social Media defies economic concerns.

Leading the way, retail and ecommerce will increase budgets by upwards of 79%. Publishing/Media appear to finally grasp that the statusphere holds the key towards future engagement and earned relevance, following in second with an increased social spend of 63%. Computer hardware/software, business and consumer services, and manufacturing/packaged goods follow closely with 55%, 54%, and 53% respectively. Travel/leisure and education are also investing in social media marketing with budget allocation rising to 52% and 43%.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does grow on tweets…

One of the interesting aspects of social media is that budget isn’t necessarily created entirely to support it. Money is redistributed from other projects. The report, which I don’t have full access to, shares the responses from marketers…I would love to read it. In my experience, money has moved mostly away from traditional advertising, interactive, and also traditional PR to help spark new social programs and teams. As referenced earlier, human resources (cost of labor) accounts for most of the expenditures as social media marketers are leveraging free tools and services to engage. According to the data, MarketingSherpa estimates that 60% of social marketing is allocated towards the human factor and 20% will go towards outside agencies and consultancies to help with social endeavors.

Metrics will become instrumental in assessing budget allocation for 2011 – whether it’s a fiscal or calendar year. It is a quest for meaningful metrics that inspire more accurate and beneficial programs that introduce business acumen into new media.

Respondents were asked to align business and social objectives with corresponding metrics.

At the top of the list, increased Web Traffic led the way across each phase. However, if you follow a stricter regiment for social media orientation and practice, Web traffic is among the easier elements to measure and honestly, increase. It is this revelation that leads to the creation of a strategic path and experience – usually resulting in the remodeling of the online corporate presence.

In second, lead generation was followed by increased sales revenue in third. Expect to see those metrics increase with the sophistication level of practitioners. In fact, you could also bet that product/brand reputation and stature, reduced costs in customer acquisition and retention, and improved customer support will rank at the top as well…instead, the early phases of indoctrination place these towards the bottom of this in terms of importance.

MarketingSherpa visualized the resource investment social media tactics that reflected effort required versus effectiveness. Of course most erred on programs that lowered the barrier to entry and ongoing activity including email, social media news releases, Microblogging (most likely Twitter), social networking, and content sharing (read: uploading, not promoting). However, in social media, your returns are representative of your investment and cultivation and bankable in the form of connections and earned authority. As such, on the opposite end of the Social Marketing Tactics, SEO and Social Media Optimization (SMO), Blogging, and Blogger Relations indeed required the greatest amount of effort, but also delivered the greatest returns.

Influence is tiered and conversations are distributed. Decisions are guided by the information and insight available to those seeking it where they choose to search and ask. One of the least discussed aspects of social media in any study is the point of enlightenment when an organization realizes that it must socialize at multiple levels, from marketing to service to HR to product/service and everything in between. We are ambassadors not only for the brand we represent but also the value proposition and the benefits we offer and how they apply to the set of circumstances and hurdles that surround each community of nicheworks.

MarketingSherpa revealed that independent voices are among the most trusted voices across blogs, boards/forums, microblogs, and wikis. However, to earn a trusted voice within any community, intelligent, thoughtful, and genuine insight and expertise is the minimum investment required. Earning trust and establishing authority are among the goals in any social program.

In Social Media, we earn the prominence and relationships we deserve.

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304 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “A New Age for Social Media Marketing”

  1. cyuskoff says:

    Agreed. 2010 will be the year that practitioners become more competent. In 2009, I think many marketers scrambled to make decisions: Social accounts were created without proper plans or clear understanding on how to measure results. And, we can assume that not enough time was spent on research to determine which social communities were most advantageous. Every community has a different voice and brands should listen carefully before they act. I have no idea where I read this, I think it was on Chris Brogan's blog, but I always use it while I am explaining how social media works: If you entered a crowded room of strangers and began shouting and bragging about yourself, how do you think people would react. *light bulb comes on* Well, same goes for social media.
    Brian, thanks for this post. It will be interesting to see how marketers evolve going forward.

    • briansolis says:

      The way I say it is that every community hosts it's own culture and therefore we must become digital sociologists before we think about becoming social marketers.

  2. JP Jones says:

    Wow! This certainly takes Social Media in a whole new direction. This is a clear example of the potential that the medium REALLY holds. So many clients and business leaders I come in contact were un-impressed with the value of social media when I first began working with them on their strategies. As such, I began a series of posts to educate them on HOW to begin to utilize it to it's fullest extent, eventually leading to a book on the topic. Thanks for validating that information even further.

  3. Walt Goshert says:

    “Money doesn’t grow on tweets.” Great line…

    Going from playing around with the latest bright, shiny thing, to plugging social media as a tactic into an over-arching marketing strategy appears to be the “thing” in 2010.

    How many businesses are set up to effectively socialize at all levels? Kinda tough to get diverse groups from HR to IT to Marketing to Sales to sing a song in harmony without a clear focused strategy. Requires visionary leadership and empowering all the voices in the business to have the right conversations.

    • briansolis says:

      Walt, after much thought and a few incredible events that I witnessed, I changed it…Money doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow on Tweets…the other part is that much of my work over the last year has been spent at not only answering your question, “How many businesses are set up to effectively socialize at all levels?” but also building it…

  4. gardosattila says:

    Many thanks for this excellent post! (BTW: the “ten stages of social media marketing” link is broken.)

  5. tallulah says:


    After this past week in the Social Media blogosphere, which seemed to be focused on the topic of Social Media ROI, this report and analysis couldn't have come at a better time. I knew I was feeling optimistic for 2010, but this just gave me numbers to back it up. Great forecast for PR and Social Media fields, great to point out how the decrease in Traditional Marketing and PR were measured while Social Mktg budgets continued to defy budget concerns. The shift is pretty clear, and PR/Mktg Agencies would be wise to take note, esp. those who are still slow to the uptake.

    However, I am very interested in seeing your “ten stages” of social media enlightenment. Looks like the 3-Phase maturation process above paints a too simplistic picture of the process. Can we expect to see it in a later post?

    Thanks again for such an informed post, Brian.


  6. Ed says:

    HI Brian

    While I full agree that we have “Jumped The Shark” we still have not moved a period of enlightenment in social media. Most of us are still trying to use short term and media measurements to measure social media actions. Measurements like lead gen, sales, reach, site visits, links etc. In my opinion social media is as old as the hills as it’s about conversation. In the marketing context it’s about building trust, advocacy, influence and insight.
    In 2010 we will shift from obsessing about the technology that has removed our conversational friction and back towards conversation, and relationships.
    We will still struggle with ROI, but this is the wrong focus in my view. ROI is inherently a short term view in the American business context and focused on monetary return for cost and time. Do I really need ROI to measure the value of having a conversation. Rather we should be focused on measuring sentiment, experience, and loyalty. I do feel that the tool sets are inadequate to measure these values.
    In my very simplistic view we move through four stages of evolution:
    • Awareness: focused on brand awareness
    • Engagement: We wake up and realize that we can actually converse with the help of technology
    • Listening: We realize these new tools can deliver insight about the conversations taking place around our brand
    • Innovation: We tap into our community ecosystem and use it to co innovate
    So while we all get it, most of us will still fall into the pit of social media ROI. Leads and sales should be a byproduct of value adding two way conversations. This will continue to be issue as marketers learn that social media is not scalable and at the end of the day I need a person on the end of the receiving channel to actually answer it and converse.
    Great Blog and Insight. Keep up the great work. Nuff Said.

  7. sergiobalegno says:

    Hi Brian – thank you for the insights on our 2010 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report. Our conversations about last year's edition inspired the much improved direction we took in this year' edition. Your copy will be on the way as soon as published! Sergio

    Sergio Balegno

  8. I have to agree that indeed it is time for social media and online marketing practitioners need to move toward a more strategic approach. You've hit the nail right on the head. We first have to become “digital sociologists”. Great Post!

  9. Beautiful picture on this article Brian. What? Where? An old theater? Opera house? And the article…perfect for my study of the subject. The topic is so new, I am a recent PR graduate (December) and feel I so unprepared — social media was taught, it was “touched on” — this is the area in which I'd like to work. I feel like I have to start all over. So, I'll teach myself. I'll attend conferences. Read and participate like I am here.

  10. edwardboches says:

    Very well organized and presented post. I found the dimensions chart the most interesting as to what takes the most effort and resources and generates the best results. Blogging and blogger relations, along with SEO, seem to prevail. However it strikes me that over time, everything will be social. Advertising, PR, content, behavior, service, etc. So in some ways the real win is to make all of this be a part of an organizations culture in addition to figuring out objectives, desired relations, strategies, tactics and measurement. It's true that the majority of companies doing this so far are simply collecting fans and followers, throwing out some offers, measuring web traffic, sentiment, conversation, etc. but without any real long term strategy of how to determine the value of a community or the way to actually monetize it. Add to that there are so many different approaches: research, listen, understand consumer and prospect sentiment; invite participation and crowdsource to generate content that will get passed around more by those who have a role in creating it; creating a community that will in and of itself become a distribution channel for your content; reward loyalty and solicit the input that can define and improve future product offerings; embrace a more efficient way to be present and visible among your consumers given their new media habits. On and on. It gets harder when many people don't actually want to see you or hear you in their personal social networks. They have new sources of content (friends' bookmarks, blogs, video channels); new ways to access information about a brand or category (mobile apps, red laser, GPS based tools); and a shortage of attention or tolerance for interruption. So in addition, a brand has to earn any interest it gets. Which brings this conversation back to content. How good is it? How useful, interesting, entertaining? What is it? A message? And app? A new utility? How is it distributed? iPhone, microsite, video, blog? Let me know when you have it all figured out and I'll promise to do the same. 🙂

    • I'm not an expert by any means but I think you already have it worked out. For me, the product is the marketing.

      There's many examples of great startups that gain lots of traction early on and their following snowballs from there on. Its not because of some contrived strategy or overly detailed internal plan that is the reason why I share. Instead, just give me something worth talking about and I'll tell my friend. So to me, leaving aside all the giddiness of the social media pundits, it comes back to just focusing on product development and/or content as you say. Gimmi gimmi gimmi!
      Problem however – we can't all make great products or otherwise there's nothing to talk about. Sure, you can use social media to propel your wares, but ultimately you will always be capped by how talk worthy your product is. So I guess social media is a waste for many in this regard and benefits the people with the real deal the most 🙂

      Launch, and if it is truly good, then people will talk using the variety of tools that your audience prefer. The product could be anything that's consumed – a blog, a product, a video, etc.

      Asking how do you justify ROI on social media is the same as asking how do you justify ROI on product development it appears, where the latter seems to be entirely more comfortable to answer. Why bother with social media if no one cares ? Is this not the fundamentals of social media success? It's capitalism democratised.

      That's it, we've cracked it! No more blog posts required Brian, thanks! 🙂

  11. eschonher says:

    Brian, great post and I think that the information will help many better understand what their company or clients are doing and how to help them succeed. I agree with you that we are social scientists. We must understand the cultures we run our businesses in and work to help them understand the value of our products to them, evaluate this for themselves, then decide if they want to purchase or buy-into them. The study seems to offer some insight, but as many have pointed out, there are still many unanswered questions. The most pressing is ROI. I personally don't believe that “ROI” by definition is short-term, but obviously in application it can be depending upon the state of the company and/or the industry the company operates within. So, social marketing just may not be for everyone. Which, again reviewing your post, is a possible consideration.

  12. destiny007 says:

    Loved the article (((((-_-)))))

    Thank you.

  13. destiny007 says:

    SO…. WILL YOU STAND, FIGHT, HIDE OR SURRENDER? The governments cannot wait to exert its final and irrevocable control over the entire World's citizenry. They and the banks will attempt to bring about the utter destruction of The entire world. Our system has been severely damaged. The rotten participants in Parliaments across the globe have violated their oaths of office and need to be criminally indicted. It is not happening. Why? The judicial branch is too busy prosecuting patriots and tampering with juries. Citizens of the world must take two roads as they are pushed aggressively toward this day of reckoning. All rational patriots must begin assessing their preparation for widespread government disruption of the “system.”
    Our Declaration of Independence encouraged, we have the DUTY to throw off tyrannical governments and REPLACE them with “new guards.” So…will you stand and fight, hide or surrender?

  14. MediaSaint says:

    I agree, this is our year students of social media! There will soon be a HUGE demand for the people putting in the time and effort to educate themselves on the many social media strategies. I want to thank you, Brian, for sharing this information. It has opened my mind to some new ideas; that I will use for my personal projects. I love the ROAD map, this model will help me stay focused on my objectives. I know that many people may find those steps to be obvious and after I read them I was upset with myself for not thinking of them myself. We don't have to reinvent the wheel here with social media marketing. The system will work using the traditional methods of surveying the market, setting brand goals, executing plans and tracking progress. Tomorrows leaders will learn how to use the social media tools available to implement yesterday's tried and true methods.

    Will Saint

  15. Brian,
    This information is very helpful! I love your quote “Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does grow on tweets…”
    This really helps put into perspective of what might work, and what is too much work. It's a social media world out there!

  16. jeSAROS says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing, a very interesting read.

    The most compelling piece of this read is Brian's statement that follows “The way I say it is that every community hosts it's own culture and therefore we must become digital sociologists before we think about becoming social marketers”.

    I agree, Social Media Marketing is more about SOCIOLOGY than TECHNOLOGY.

  17. Essi Pöyry says:

    Great post – I think it summarizes the current state of the social media marketing industry very well! The need to define and measure the ROI of social media activities is the truly the most crucial task the industry (both vendors and buyers) must do in order to become a part of marketing and communications strategies.

    However, when it comes to larger consumer brands, I think human work and free tools are usually not enough – good analysis services tend to decrease the need for human work and they give a fuller picture of the brand and the industry in all social media channels. One of the main benefits in the paid services is that you can usually also access historic data and instantly draw conclusions of the current state of the brand. This, of course, regards more marketing related needs whereas communications or e.g. customer service might do well with only free monitoring tools.

    Anyway, thanks for the insightful post, will definitely take a closer look at the actual study!


  18. varinder says:

    Great post. You have covered every thing in Social medial marketing.

  19. Great post. You have covered eveything relating to social media marketing

  20. annejaa says:

    Social media marketing and the businesses that utilize it have become more sophisticated. More small businesses are beginning to understand how to best leverage online tools to build a community and recognize that engagement and interaction are the foundations of social marketing
    An advanced social strategy is a technique that goes beyond the normal social media presence and introduces or reinforces a marketing message while pushing a user to another profile or business site. Before moving forward with an advanced strategy, it’s important that your business understands social marketing which has experience engaging consumers and that you possess a basic understanding of online marketing.

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  21. Great report to point less then enthusiastic clients towards. I have linked your report to a few to help persuade them to take up the social media marketing mantra.

  22. I'm a social media expert myself and will say that this is one of the best articles in the web

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