Only 23% of marketers believe that social channels will help in getting new customers, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
The report, which looked at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, also found that a third (34.5%) of the 1,500 marketers polled said that their social media activity in 2011 was “not at all effective”, with only 13.7% reporting it was “extremely effective”.
The majority of marketers polled see social media as a tool to engagement (37%), or as support to other channels in a campaign (46%).
Alex Pearmain, head of social media at O2, says it is in engagement and not direct response where social media will prove successful for marketers.
He adds: “Social media can make money, but businesses need to have a broader view of how it can do this. If someone invests in direct response and wants a return within 10 days, I would query the use of social media.
“However, if it is a longer-term approach to drive customer engagement and customer value, then social media is more appropriate.”
The CIM report fuels the debate on the effectiveness of social media. Some marketers have said that it is difficult to justify investment in social media at a time when marketing budgets are coming under scrutiny. Major advertisers such as Diageo and Unilever, however, have backed social media as a direct marketing tool.
For those companies that are still wary, the CIM says that buzzwords such as fans, followers and retweets must be turned into something meaningful for the wider business.
Brands and boardrooms have been put off social media in the past due to “fluffy metrics” according to Jeremy Waite, head of social media at Phones4U, highlighting the need for an industry standard to make social media more commercially viable.
The CIM says that marketers are also failing to see the value of social media as an insight tool, with only 20% of marketers using Facebook for market research.
Bakery chain Greggs, however, believes that gleaning real time insight on what customers want from social media is “one of the most powerful tools for a CEO” if businesses act on what customers are telling them on social channels.
Despite doubts over the effectiveness of social media, the report found that 74.5% of marketers plan to increase their investment in social media in 2012.
The CIM surveyed 900 senior UK marketers as part of a 1500 strong global panel. It plans to carry out further studies to help marketers benchmark the way they use social media.