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Report: Brands Pursue the Social Consumer

The Pivot Conference is unique in its focus of seeking and dissecting branding’s next revolution: The Rise of the Social Consumer. In October 2010, the inaugural event took place in New York, uniting brands, agencies, and industry experts to share insights, best practices and also explore the horizon for relevant emerging technologies and methodologies.

At the end of 2010, the research team at Pivot conducted a survey among its 700-plus attendees to reveal 2011 challenges, opportunities and the plans to organize efforts around them. The results were analyzed and underpinned the planning for the 2011 Pivot conference. However, the insights we learned in the process are far too valuable to keep behind the firewall. We’ve assembled the highlights into this report and are making it freely available to download, review and share.

The following data should not be viewed in the context of a conference. Instead, this information is reflective of the brand’s eye view on the state and future of social media in 2011 development and execution. Views included here give us access to the plans and corresponding spending in new media for the year ahead.

The Pivot Audience

Pivot attendees were by and large focused on marketing and advertising, comprising 78 percent of the audience. Brand marketers and business executives made up the majority of those seeking insights for the future of marketing, representing 54 percent of the overall audience. Agency professionals and consultants represented less than half of their in house counterparts.

Over two-thirds of survey respondents hold executive, VP or director titles, representing the following industries:

– Arts – 23%
– Banking/Financial Services – 15.9%
– Beauty – 20.6%
– Entertainment – 33.3%
– Food/Beverage/Restaurants – 17.5%
– Marketing/Advertising/PR – 34.9%
– Media/Publishing – 34.9%
– Retail – 19%
– Technology (Business) – 22.2%
– Technology (Consumer) – 30.2%

Social Media is held close to the brand vest. While many functions associated with advertising and marketing are outsourced to agencies, social media is an exception. Over half (52 percent) of brands report that they’re running social media marketing in house. 19 percent are feeding this function to full service ad agencies and another 15 percent rely on specialized agencies to lead their social marketing programs.

Roles and Responsibilities

The Pivot research team asked participants which marketing/advertising functions they are responsible for or what specifically they oversee. By far, social media marketing was the number one role at 64 percent followed by brand marketing at 58 percent and advertising/marketing campaign development at 50 percent. Marketing research and analysis showed a strong appearance at 48 percent. If we were to combine public relations and corporate communications, it would tie for second with brand marketing at 58 percent.

It’s clear that those focused on branding’s next revolution are responsible for a great array of functions. Functions with strong showings included Website development, product marketing, mobile and direct marketing.

Who Owns Social Media

While who owns social media may be the wrong question to ask, social media for the time being, appears to live in one primary department. Over time however, social media will extend the capacity of any business unit or division affected by outside behavior. When asked which departments are currently involved in social media 90 percent of participants pointed to marketing. Public relations followed with 64 percent. Sales showed a strong presence with 46 percent and customer service also made the list with a solid 39 percent. I found it interesting that investor relations made an official appearance the list. Even with 8 percent, it’s a telling sign of things to come.

An Investment in Time and Resources

Marketing professionals revealed how they plan to spend their time over the next 12 months. For those of us trying to figure out whether or not we’re focused on the right outside resources and opportunities, benchmarking against peers is as helpful as it is telling.

Social Media: In 2011, marketers plan to increase usage of social media by 75 percent. 19 percent will remain at current levels and only one percent of respondents actually plan on decreasing usage.

Mobile: Apps for iPhone and Droid will see a rise of 62 percent, 21 percent will remain constant and 1 percent will decrease.

Microblogging: 61 percent will increase use of streaming apps such as Twitter and Yammer, 27 percent will stay the course and 5 percent will reduce current usage.

Video: 55 percent of marketers will increase video production and distribution with YouTube, Vimeo and the like, 31 percent will continue as is, and no one plans to decrease their efforts in this category in 2011.

Blogs: Contrary to a recent story in the New York Times insinuating that the statusphere would spell the end of the blogosphere, brands will increase their focus on top tier blogs to reach customers and peers by 52 percent, with 35 percent staying constant and 5 percent reducing focus.

While every category will experience increases at varying levels, there are certain platforms and networks that showed double-digit decreases in 2011. Geo-location networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla and Review sites will see a 10 percent retraction in focus this year. On the contrary, brands will increase usage of virtual worlds such as Second Life by 11 percent.

Advertising/Marketing Budgets

The average annual marketing/advertising budget for those who could disclose it was $16.8 million. 24 percent of that budget, on average, was earmarked for social media.

Social Media Touches the Adaptive Business

Participants were asked whether they agree or disagree with a series of statements around social media.

Customer Focus: At the top of the list, 69 percent believe social media is a component of an effective customer relations program

Brand Impact: 66 percent believe that social media has a significant impact on companies and brands.

State of Adoption: 57 percent see advertising and marketing in the early stages of capitalizing on social media

Social Media as a Differentiator: Surprisingly only 35 percent of respondents see social media as fundamentally different from all other media. We predict this too will change over time as brands look beyond traditional command and control strategies in new media.

Social Media as a Disruptor: 22 percent see social media as a Trojan Horse in the market, giving hope to emerging brands seeking to displace established brands.

Social Media Success

Attaining ROI is an important quest in social media. A majority of brands that participated in the Pivot study are measuring social media against internal goals and objectives. Of those who are measuring, 73 percent find social media programs to be successful. Four percent say that social media is not delivering as hoped. However, a full 23 percent cannot yet tell. Expect this number to decrease by this time next year.

Social Consumers

The focus of Pivot 2011 is on the rise of the social consumer. The research team asked about the importance of the social consumer in the company’s social media marketing efforts.

59 percent see social consumers as pivotal to the brand, and as such, welcome their involvement and participation. On the other hand, 22 percent are proceeding with caution, maintaining control over process.

Who are Social Consumers?

Participants in the Pivot study were asked to estimate the age range of social consumers. 61 percent estimated 21-30 years old. 57 percent guessed 11-20. 43 percent targeted 31-40. 27 percent cited 41-50. For the record, Millennials currently fall between the ages of 16 and 31. The answers are surprising however. Social consumers represent all ages on the chart and are aligned by psychographics as we move forward, not demographics.

Are Social Consumers Important Marketing Targets?

This is the billion-dollar question. Aside from age group, 84 percent of brands and agencies participating in this study see the Social Consumer as a primary or secondary target in 2011.

Readiness to Support New Advertising Platforms

Brand marketers and their agency counterparts are more than ready to embrace new advertising platforms such as Twitter’s promoted products and Facebook’s new in-stream opportunities. 62 percent agree that if there’s benefit, they are willing to be among the first to test and use. 20 percent on the other hand prefer not to be among the first. Nine percent will wait and see.


2011 is a pivotal year for social media. While many brands believe in its importance, there is still a great deal to learn. What’s clear however, is just how early brands are in this growth curve. Social Consumers are expanding beyond the Millennial demographic as social-savvy individuals are migrating from the edge to the center of technology adoption and prowess. As they do, social networks and new media apps and services become their platforms of choice. All signs, according to this study, point towards greater investment in time, money, and resources to better understand and excel in social media.

About Pivot

The Pivot Conference is focused on helping brand managers, executives, creative teams, and agencies bridge the gap between brands and the emerging market of Social Consumers. Combining inspiration and education through a series of keynotes, discussions and workshops, Pivot teaches through immersion how to captivate attention where and when it’s focused and how to steer experiences and actions beneficial to the brand.

The two-day conference will engage the heart and the mind of attendees through a structured approach to understanding strategies and tactics to effectively attract and engage social consumers. Part inspiration and part education, together we’ll walk away with ideas and programs we can put to work immediately and throughout 2012.

Pivot will be limited to 500 brand and their agencies in 2011. (Click here to register.)

Contact Mike Edelhart at to inquire about sponsorships.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook

Image Credit: Shutterstock (edited)

43 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Report: Brands Pursue the Social Consumer”

  1. Thanks for sharing these findings. It would be interesting to compare the results of question estimating the age range of the social consumer here with user data. Are the perceptions of the marketers polled here accurate?

    I am also always interested in how this breaks out by B2B and B2C; there are similarities and differences in these segments (as I was recently reminded of on a webinar on e-mail marketing)

  2. Hi Brian
    Your name came up at a conference, you were quoted saying Social Media is about sociology and psychology more so than technology and I totally agree
    so i checked out your site
    I’m glad i did. I have referenced you in my blog as well.
    I will be back to see your insights

  3. Some great takeaway data and research here. The fact that many people do not currently see any difference between social media and traditional media/marketing comes as no real surprise at this early stage. To my mind social media as part of of a broader corporate strategy can not afford to be silo’d. Rather each business area that makes up a corporation should have a platform to flourish.

    The successful corporation going forward is one in which social media pervades it’s way all the way to the C-suite and is inclusive.

  4. David Pérez says:

    I could not agree more. Fan of your work!!!

  5. robingandhi says:

    Thanks for the post, Brian. Some great insights here. I just wonder if this is a biased group for questions like the one about social consumers as marketing targets and ROI on social media… especially since this is a conference on the rise of social consumers.

    Based on what you are seeing, how close do you think this resembles the larger set of brands out there? Maybe the industries that were most represented in the group (tech, beauty, media, entertainment) would have similar results even when the sample set is expanded? What do you think?

  6. More very, very useful information, thanks very much Brian for keeping everyone so up to date! Interesting to see that 23% cannot tell if they are experiencing any Social Media success. In some ways this is good as it highlights the fact that the benefits will not be seen over night and that Social Media cannot work miracles. To me, Social Media marketing is a fantastic concept, but if your service or products aren’t up to it, like any other marketing, you might as well not bother. IMHO this is what makes the Consumer King right now!

  7. WOW! Another enormously informative post! Thanks!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot for this very informative post!

  9. Yinka Olaito says:

    Great work Solis. i hope the next conference will be advertised on time so others can join life. All the same , thatnks a lot for this brief

  10. Hi Great sharing and i feel social media is the effective way of connecting with potential customers and as you said the results will not come over night , we have to wait and watch for it.

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