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Social's Value Measured in Engagement Over Sales

Engagement, brand lift are leading social goals

Marketers struggle to get the most out of their presence on social sites, and with brands’ continued tenure on the networks, their goals and the metrics they use to measure their performance have changed. According to a 2013 survey of US marketing professionals by Pivot Conference, which hosts leading social business events, consumer engagement and brand lift were the No. 1 goals of social media marketing, each cited by 67% of respondents. This was up significantly from 2011, when those goals were cited by about 50% each.

Last year, using social media marketing to garner positive sentiment was the leading goal, whereas this year it dropped to No. 4. Marketers may be finding that it is less important that their posts get a warm reception from social users and more important that they keep consumers posting, “liking” and sharing social content.

Among the biggest changes overall was the decrease in the importance of sales vs. two years prior. In 2011, increasing sales was the No. 1 goal of social media marketing, embraced by 100% of respondents. In 2012, it dropped below 50%, as marketers reassessed their priorities. This year, they seem to be reaching equilibrium, as increasing sales was cited as a leading goal by 58%.

And similarly, when marketers want to evaluate the performance of their social marketing, engagement is the primary metric, used by 23.3% of respondents. However, measuring increased sales was still high on the list, pointing to the fact that some marketers still expect to get a dollar conversion out of their social efforts.

Most marketers seem to be getting a better handle on social. The percentage that said lack of a social strategy had prevented them from moving beyond experimentation went down between 2011 and 2012, from 41.6% to 32.5%. Meanwhile, budget became the biggest hindrance to forward action on social, cited by 62.5% in 2012, up from 47.2% the previous year.

More than 60% of brands from the marquee retail and travel sectors worldwide participated in seven social sites or more, according to July 2013 data from L2 Think Tank, while just 5% confined themselves to three or fewer sites.

This indicates that marketers are seeing enough return on investment from across their social outreach to keep extending their efforts—or, it could mean, they are spreading themselves somewhat thin and waiting to see what sticks.


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