Almost 90% of brands plan to boost social media spend

Marketing on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook is set to rise next year with a majority of companies planning to increase their spend, according to a report from Econsultancy. In a survey of 1,000 businesses, more than half say they are not spending enough online and 86% say they plan to increase their social media budget in 2010.

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed say they have experimented with social media as a form of advertising. Some 69% say that at least a portion of their ad budget is allocated to developing social media.

"A tipping point has been reached with social media," says Michelle Goodall, online PR and social media consultant at Econsultancy. "Social networks have reached mass market adoption rates."

However, the study suggests many firms are struggling to make the most of social media, with 54% saying a lack of resources is the biggest obstacle to better engagement. Less than a quarter of those surveyed say they can see a “tangible” return on their investment. Just under two-thirds say they have gained “more benefit” from their social media spend “but nothing concrete”.

"While an increasing number of companies are embracing social media, many are struggling to effectively manage their engagement," says Phil Gripton, managing director of bigmouthmedia UK. "They are consequently failing to make the most of a potentially enormous opportunity."

Marketers are still wary of using social media in their PR tactics. They find its impact hard to measure as social media campaigns are more often aimed at creating brand awareness, rather than drive click-throughs and sales. However, a previous study by Razorfish says there seems to be a strong link between brand engagement online and purchases. Almost all of those questioned said a digital brand experience had influenced whether they went on to make a purchase.

Twitter remains the most widely used social network, with 78% saying they are using the microblogging platform. Almost two-thirds use it for publicising new content, while half use it for marketing or brand monitoring. However, companies still have a mixed view of its impact. Almost a third say they see “tremendous opportunities” available on Twitter, but half are “not fully convinced” about its value to their business. Some 7% believe Twitter is over-hyped and a fad.