Social media adspend to hit $112bn even though it 'stumps' marketers

Marketers had unrealistic expectations of what social media could deliver and are having to readjust their strategy, Forrester warns.

Social media: cause of confusion for marketers (Getty Images)
Social media: cause of confusion for marketers (Getty Images)

Marketers will spend $112bn (£85bn) worldwide on social media advertising in 2020, despite many of them "doing it wrong", new research reveals. 

Analysts at Forrester found that just under a third (31%) of chief marketing officers cannot show the impact of social media on their businesses.

This is because, the report argues, "social media stumps marketers. First, they had unrealistic expectations of social media, hoping it would be the key to unlocking massive profits in the digital age. When that didn’t pan out, they shifted 180 degrees to believing that social media’s only use was for advertising. Although it’s true that Facebook’s primary business value is as an advertising platform, it’s a mistake to infer that advertising is social media’s sole opportunity." 

Instead of having a "social marketing strategy", the study says, marketers should instead use social tactics and technology strategically alongside other channels to achieve broader marketing goals. 

The report also details the reasons for most marketers’ social errors and how companies should use social skills to augment other marketing functions.

For example, user-generated content can be effective outside social features where it is gathered and displayed. Forrester said the "gold standard" of this approach is Apple’s integrated campaign "Shot on iPhone", which repurposes images and videos that users produce on the smartphone into TV spots, billboards and print ads.  

Social media has also improved as a tool for brand sentiment, the report explains, because the platforms are taking their role in ensuring brand health more seriously. Twitter, for example, allows brands to buy customer feedback in Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction Score formats.

Social media adspend is forecast by Publicis Groupe's Zenith to be the second-fastest-growing channel between 2019 and 2022 at 13.8%, behind online video (16.6%). 

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