Targeting is not an alien concept to marketing professionals. But as businesses get more intimate with social media and CRM applications, does this mean that social media marketing is also increasingly becoming personalized? A recent survey among marketing professionals gives us a few insights into how firms target and personalize their marketing messages.

Chief Marketer conducted a survey among 675 marketing professionals in different fields from June to July this year, and asked about their activities and preferences in personalizing their marketing efforts. This includes triggering mechanisms, personalized URLs, ad retargeting and other means of ensuring the audience gets the message.

Email is the Most Personalized Platform

While email is a mature platform for marketers, it's not going the way of the dinosaur in terms of popularity and use. 89% of the respondents say they customize email messages based on consumer preference and data. Meanwhile, direct mail comes in next. Mediums that are supposedly more social didn't fare too well, such as web (36%), social media (31%) and mobile platforms (12%).

Bigger companies are more likely to use email, direct marketing, web and mobile platforms in targeting their message. However, smaller businesses are more likely to be aggressive in social media platforms.

What Exactly Do Marketers Track and How Do They Target Personalized Content?

Social CRM software packages are becoming more and more powerful, and marketing professionals are able to track and store customer data, including demographics, interests, tastes and purchasing power. Marketers use a mix of previous purchase history (58%) and voluntarily-submitted information (51%) when determining preferences. Only 30% use other sources to gather such information.

For most marketing professionals, personalized messages are targeted after certain online behavior, such as shopping-cart abandonment, downloading of content, and use of specific search keywords. 58% use these methods to trigger personalized content. Some use content-retargeting, which involves collecting information on products and services of interest and re-advertising these as reminders when a user visits websites and social networks.

Does Personalization Give Any Added Value?

46% of the marketing professionals surveyed say that their targeting activities result in positive response, which is considered better than with messages broadly-transmitted through mass mediums. However, the real return is difficult to measure.

And for those that do not employ targeted marketing yet, almost half usually cite lack of expertise and funds, although some also cite lack of useful data or applications needed to make targeting effective. About a third plan to start tailor-fitting their marketing messages within the next year, although about a half are not sure how or when.