There are some interesting studies surfacing lately in the world of social media. Here’s a summary of three recent research findings covering the benefits of social media marketing, how forums help brands and how businesses are employing social media marketing.
#1: 50% of Small Businesses Say Lead Generation is Biggest Benefit of Social Networking
According to the “Small Business Marketing Forecast 2010” from Ad-ology, lead generation is the biggest benefit of social networking for U.S. small businesses.
Here’s the breakdown of respondents’ top benefits of social networking:
- 50%: Generating leads
- 45%: Keeping up with the industry
- 44%: Monitoring online conversation
- 38%: Finding vendors/suppliers
Here’s a surprising statistic: While 67% agreed that social media is a good way to increase business, 39% of those surveyed said they did not plan to use social networking in their marketing plan in 2010. This number is likely tied to the finding that 31% reported that their customers do not use social media, 29% stated they do not have enough time to devote to it and 21% said they do not know enough about social media.
Although more businesses are beginning to adopt social media strategies into their overall marketing plans, this report suggests businesses still have a long way to go before social media is fully integrated into marketing efforts.
#2: Online Forum Users Are Enthusiastic Brand Advocates
According to a recent survey published by PostRelease, people who actively contribute to online forums are overwhelmingly more engaged in “influential” activities – both online and offline – than people who don’t use forums.
What’s most interesting about these findings is that a forum contributor’s influence far extends past the walls of the forum. Here are some statistics:
- 79.2% of forum contributors help a friend or family member make a decision about a product purchase – compared with 47.6% of non-contributors and 53.8% overall.
- 65% of forum contributors share advice (offline and in person) based on information that they’ve read online – compared with 35% of non-contributors and 40.8% overall.
- 57.7% of forum contributors proactively recommend someone make a particular purchase – compared with 16.9% of non-contributors and 24.9% overall.
There’s also an interesting correlation between forum users and blogging. The study found that those who contribute to online forums are 10 times more likely than non-contributors to also publish a blog, and are 9 times more likely to take an active role in organizing an offline event or meeting for a group that originally met online.
For marketers who are looking to connect with the key influencers in their niche, the findings suggest that online forums are a smart place to start; however, marketers should proceed with caution. Justin Choi, founder and president of PostRelease, writes, “Online forums are great places to find enthusiastic consumers and influential brand advocates. The people in forums are often discussing specific products, sharing advice and asking each other for recommendations. For marketers, participating in that discussion is not quite as simple as jumping into a forum conversation – forums have rules about that. But there are tools for connecting in a way that’s transparent and relevant.”
#3: Only 47% of Companies Experimenting With Social Media
A study by Gartner predicts that by the end of 2010, more than 60% of Fortune 1000 companies will manage an online community. However, another study by ComBlu brings Gartner’s findings into question.
ComBlu’s study, The State of Online Branded Communities, shows how most companies do not understand how to engage within online communities and have no real idea of what their customers want on these sites. Furthermore, most companies are unaware that people interact on these sites in different ways, so many companies are merely pushing data with little or no interaction.
The report reveals that when companies do get people to join their communities, their lack of engagement is extremely obvious to the sophisticated user.
“Instead of engaging the visitor, the brand drives them away because they offer little of value. Consumers today are sophisticated users of social tools and seek out communities to learn, share and interact. If these elements are missing, or there is no obvious organizing structure that fulfills specific needs, the ‘faux’ community will be quickly abandoned,” stated the report.
Here are some interesting findings related to brands and their online community activity (or lack thereof):
- 47% of brands are still in the experimental phase, meaning they “exhibit lots of social activity with little connection or integration with each other.”
- 24% are community ghost towns, meaning there is no engagement and very few members with no return visitors.
- 20% show a cohesive strategy and typically had robust engagement tools and multiple activities with an active participation from their community.
- 9% show community overload with multiple messages to the same audience, most likely causing confusion and diluting the message.
Perhaps even more important, the study points out that some of the most effective online community best practices were used the least. Of the 135 communities they examined, only:
- 44 have a community manager. A community manager acts as the face of the community. Without one, there is no cohesive bond between the community sponsors and its members.
- 44 allow social networking. This practice allows community members to connect with each other and find shared interests, thus promoting further connection.
- 35 offer social bookmarking. This best practice gives community members a tool to personalize and aggregate their online experience at the brand’s destination site.
What do you think about these study findings? As always, we want to hear from you. Have you had similar results that support the data above or does your social media experience contradict the findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!