Spredfast‘s latest enterprise social marketing report highlights a continued increase in budget for social marketing efforts amidst a shift towards using social as a tool to boost non-social marketing efforts.

The report, available here, looks exclusively at large cap companies with over $1 billion in revenue. While this is a limited sample – 160 respondents to be exact – there are some corollaries for smaller companies to consider when implementing social into the marketing mix. With the proliferation of marketing platforms online, this is equally important for companies of all sizes across industries.

Social marketing is at the heart of the organization

Social has been steadily increasing in importance, first becoming vital for small organizations and then moving its way up the food chain. Now even the largest firms see social as essential, with CMOs nearly edging out SVPs for the ultimate responsibility for social.

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These executives are supported by a small, dedicated team, with 61.5% of respondents employing 10 or fewer full-time people in social. Part-timers have a similar spread, showing that brands are using a blend of FT and PT employees to make the marketing work best.

Given the high-level support of social, the expectation for results has been increased.

In fact, according to this research, the main point of social marketing is to support owned and branded marketing. This is a shift from seeing it as a platform unto itself; as brands began to realize the loss of power by pushing customers onto unowned channels, they have shifted focus back to supporting branded marketing efforts – now a clear majority, 67%, are integrating social within broader, non-social, owned marketing campaigns.

The successful implementation of social marketing at these large companies is leading to a dramatic renewed investment in social marketing efforts. Less than 2% of respondents are decreasing headcount, with huge boosts in staffing occurring by the vast majority – a significant 11.4% of those surveyed are planning on increasing by over 20%.

Staffing changes

Alongside this increase in staffing comes an increase in marketing budgets.

Increase in budget

This growth in investment across the board is important for all companies in travel to take note of. Not only is it indicative of optimism in the economy (with the resulting increase in business travel) but this increase in dollars also demonstrates the shifting competitiveness of the market.

Nearly 100% of surveyed brands are playing on the major social networks, which has drastically raised prices for all players – and demonstrates the need for increased creativity to deliver successful marketing more affordably.

Tactics for travel brands

In order to be successful in marketing, specific tactics are required online. The larger brands are using the following tactics now, and potentially in the future:

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Each of these tactics are useful in travel, although note that both word-of-mouth programs and hosted customer reviews were not on the priority lists for over 30% of respondents. This is curious, as social marketing is often seen as a way to boost organic word-of-mouth in its own right.

The most popular means of deliver social marketing is via curating content on owned sites, an interest shift from simply building follower counts.

Branded blogs have also gained popularity, especially in travel, where the contrarian view combines with a multimedia rich product offering to deliver straightforward inbound marketing opportunities.

And yet, despite the desire of an increase conversion rate and a steady ROI from social, most brands are still playing in the social marketing field for brand awareness.

Primary business objective

For travel, awareness is vital for larger brands – such as OTAs – that compete for top-of-mind placement when a consumer is considering where to purchase travel.

However, it must also be combined with a steady stream of conversion-minded marketing. A clear and complete understanding of the customer’s purchase path is vital, as travel marketers can mold the message to each specific phase to ensure the top-of-mind presence at that final moment of purchase.

Yet, many of the larger brands are not quite there yet as far as aligning social marketing to their consumers’ purchase journeys.

Only 15% are completely certain that this sort of alignment exists – and out of all of the things to take into consideration, this is one of the most clear and present opportunities for social marketing success in an increasingly mobile-centric consumer experience.

Aligning social marketing to customer purchase journey

The report, which has more about data, insights and social marketing measurement, can be downloaded here.

NB: Social icon images courtesy Shutterstock.

Original author: Nick Vivion