This year’s social media marketing industry report identifies the top ten questions that marketers would like to have answered. Among them, marketers want to know what to measure, what tools to use, how to engage their audience and how they can maximize their time on social media. Oh, and they want to know the winning lottery numbers, too.

How Marketers Use Social Media to Grow Business

When will the marketing industry learn that there is no magic formula for social media success? What works for your company is going to vary drastically for another company -- not because the strategy changes, but because audiences engage differently depending upon what they want, need or think they want and need. 

Social media isn’t a hard science; as we’ve previously discussed, it’s more like the fine arts. So why, when surveyed, do marketers repeatedly treat social media like it’s a mathematical equation, where if they just employed the premier social media monitoring tool with right engagement strategy, they’d finally know all there is about social media?

The report compiled by Michael A. Stelzner and sponsored by Social Media Examiner attempts to show us How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses

For the past three years running, the number one question that marketers want answered is how do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business? Personally, there isn’t an eyeroll big enough to convey my contempt for this question. Luckily, Stelzner indulges their curiosity better than I do by writing, “As you can see by examining the above list, marketers have asked some excellent questions.”

Social Media is Important! No Experience Necessary!

The report tells us some of what we already know: A majority of marketers said that  social media was important to their businesses. Of course last year, 90% said that it was -- perhaps indicating that some businesses have discovered the social media isn’t magic and it may not work for everyone.

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Experience with social media marketing

Most marketers (40%) have more than a year's experience deploying social media marketing, while 23% have less than a year’s experience. Their inexperience may explain why they seek answers to basic, yet hard to quantify questions -- however, if these questions have been asked every year for three years, apparently the information isn’t trickling down effectively.

Time Spent, Benefits Gained

Not surprisingly, those with more years of social media experience spend more time each week conducting social media activities. However, more experienced social media users are spending less time with social media compared to their 2011 findings. The 2012 report shows that 77% of people with 3 or more years of experience commit more than 6 hours weekly to social media marketing. And 24.5% of that crowd are spending 20 hours or more each week.

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How long marketers have been using social media and their weekly time commitment

I can’t help but notice there’s a huge gap between spending 6 and 20 hours a week engaging in social media marketing. If they’re still not effectively understanding how to engage with their audience or what value is being added to the experience, perhaps there are bigger questions to be asked. Additionally, it also indicates that marketers engaging in social media activities may have other non-social media activities to tend to.

For their time and effort, marketers have noticed a few benefits. The two top benefits of social media marketing cited include increasing exposure and increasing traffic, with a significant 85% of all marketers indicating that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of marketers are using social media to gain marketplace intelligence.

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Benefits of social media marketing

Why Doesn't Social Media Activity = Sales?

It’s clear that marketers are struggling to convert social media engagement into sales. Without a clear correlation between the two, many companies don’t see the value of social media activity. However, social media can build relationships and cultivate strong customer experience, which may affect how prospective and current customers engage with the company. We do know that if you don’t provide adequate customer experience, customers will leave. We also know that customers expect companies to engage with them via social media channels. Sales are important -- without them companies can’t thrive -- but social media was never designed to convert traffic into sales. It exists to be social -- to add a human element to your company’s persona.

If the questions asked by marketers seem naïve and uninformed, I can only suspect that it has more to do with the management guiding their social media efforts. We can’t say it enough: Social media isn’t a guarantee. Simply creating a Facebook page or Twitter profile doesn’t make you engaged. Engagement comes from being transparent, authentic, in tune to the needs of your community and, above all, passionate about what you do.