At most companies, business objectives, measurement methodologies and investment are not well aligned for social marketing. That’s a key finding of a new report from Awareness, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based provider of on-demand social marketing automation software.

The study, The State of Social Media Marketing, surveyed 469 marketers in a wide range of industries, company sizes and levels of social marketing expertise. Among its notable findings was that while marketers know they need higher customer engagement and revenues for social media marketing, only 47 percent of those surveyed actually measure the results of their efforts.

Sixty-six percent are spending most of their time and investment growing social media fans and creating content, but only 39 percent are thinking how to integrate this kind of marketing into the rest of their business plans.

Top Marketing Business Objectives

The top metric in determining a brand’s effectiveness is social presence, as seen by the number of fans and followers. This is measured by virtually everyone -- 96 percent -- while 89 percent measure the effect on website traffic, 84 percent look at social mentions across platforms. A slight majority of marketers, 51 percent, have started to measure sentiment.

The top cited business objectives are, in order:

  • Better customer engagement
  • Revenue generation
  • Better customer experience
  • Increased thought leadership

The top challenges are:

  • Measuring ROI
  • Growing and managing social presence
  • Monitoring social media
  • Integrating social with lead generation and sales
  • Securing sufficient resources
  • Integrating social with other marketing
  • Managing publishing
  • Budgeting sufficient resources

The study found that marketers are beginning to measure the key values, including a brand’s effectiveness in social media, customer engagement and revenue generation.

How to Figure ROI?

But how can companies account for the amount of revenue which can be attributed to social media marketing? Three metrics are used by about 60 percent: the creation of new customers directly related to social media marketing, specific sales and new leads. Forty-two percent say they maintain individual social profiles for their business fans . According to the report, this indicates a limited ability for marketers to categorize their followers by their value to the business.

How engaged are customers? Eighty-four percent of marketers say they first determine all channels their customers engage on, while 66 percent measure engagement by examining customer satisfaction and 57 percent look at issue resolution.

Figuring out social media ROI, of course, is the key to finding out whether the time and expense are worthwhile (see Social Media ROI: It Doesn't Really Matter (Really!)).

 Top challenges for that endeavor are tying the social media results to actual business results, analyzing unstructured social media data, integrating disparate social media data sources, and trying to get actionable business insights from social media data.

Editor's Note: Check out our series: Social Media Marketing 101 by Marisa Peacock, some great ideas to get you started)