Brands and agencies still see social as a ‘teenager’ in the media mix but budgets are set to rise by a fifth

Almost three in 10 people working in the industry don’t believe that social media plays an important role in the marketing function, according to new research from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The study of behaviour and attitudes towards social media surveyed 180 agencies and brands and found that in terms of marketing disciplines, social was still a “teenager”.

Respondents said that only 43 per cent of their Twitter, Instagram or other social campaigns were integrated into the wider marketing function, while over half of brands noted that they never measure the ROI of social. Agencies were more likely to calculate ROI with 35 per cent saying they go through the process 'some of the time'.

However, despite the findings, agencies said that they would invest 33 per cent more budget into the medium over the next 24 months, with brands expecting a 21 per cent rise – something the IAB’s director of marketing and communications, Alex Kozloff, said could help social “enter adulthood within a couple of years”.

Forrester research recently indicated that online display and social media spend is set to hit at €28.7bn in 2020.

“Although the use of social has become more sophisticated, it still has a lot of growing up to do in convincing a significant part of the marketing industry that it has an important and beneficial role to play,” Kozloff said. “In terms of marketing disciplines, it’s still a teenager.”

The industry agreed that the main reason for using social campaigns was to drive brand awareness (cited by 79 per cent of respondents), while brand engagement and traffic were found to be the second most popular objectives at 75 per cent.

At present, around 45 per cent of social budgets are allocated to paid campaigns and the IAB expects this to grow as data increasingly drives activity, as has happened in other digital marketing disciplines.

Kozloff observed that in the coming years, social will become less about just gathering fans and more about "delivering more sophisticated content and then measuring the impact".

The survey, which was conducted on behalf of the IAB by ICM Research, also revealed which brands marketers thought were leading the way on social: Coca-Cola topped the list with 20 per cent of the total votes, followed by Nike and Virgin.

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