This week, Social Media Examiner launched its fourth annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report, and there are some interesting discoveries found in the report. The study surveyed 3,800 marketers to learn how they’re using social media for business promotion. Some of the results will surprise you.

First, let’s take a look at the top 10 things about social media marketing that marketers who responded to the survey have questions about and want to understand.

  1. How to measure the effect of social media marketing on their businesses
  2. How to find their target audiences with social media
  3. How to engage their audiences
  4. How to sell with social media
  5. How to best use their time to maximize social media results
  6. How to create a social media strategy
  7. Which social media tactics are most effective
  8. What are the best social media management tools
  9. How to use the different social media platforms
  10. How to select the right social platforms for my business

Some of these truly worry me. Who is handling social media for these businesses if they’re asking these questions? While measurement continues to be a challenge for social media marketers in general, a professional marketer with social media experience shouldn’t be asking the rest of these questions. I suppose this could be attributed directly to the #3 finding from the study discussed below.

83% of respondents to this survey believe that social media is important to their businesses, but they’re still using a silo marketing approach in implementing social media in their marketing plans and missing the full opportunity that social media offers. Following are five key areas of the study with particularly interesting findings:

1. Time

The vast majority of marketers who responded to the survey are spending less than 10 hours per week on social media marketing activities (67.4%) with 41.7% spending less than 5 hours per week on social media marketing activities.

2. Sites

Marketers are focusing the vast majority of their efforts on just a handful of sites for social media marketing: Facebook (92%), Twitter (82%), LinkedIn (73%), blogs (61%), and YouTube or other videos (57%).

3. Manpower

It’s clear from these results that time, experience, and expertise is an issue for marketers, yet only 30% are outsourcing at least a portion of their social media activities to third parties.

4. Metrics

Marketers don’t know how to track their social media efforts and truly determine if they’re driving real results. 40% of survey respondents say they want to know how to measure the return on investment of social media and how to find customers and prospects.

5. Benefits

Marketers who responded to this study believe that the biggest benefits of social media marketing are: Generating more business and exposure (85%), increasing traffic (69%), and providing marketplace insight (65%). This leads us back to the inability to measure results. Without measurement, building brand awareness and increasing blog traffic are the only things marketers are comfortable saying they’re impacting through social media marketing.

Social media marketing represents a significant opportunity for businesses to build their brands and ultimately, boost sales. As the results of this study show, there is still a lot to be learned and plenty of room for aggressive and innovative businesses to thrive on the social web. The marketers who responded to this survey indicated that their future plans will focus on online video and YouTube (76%). Beyond that, the top areas marketers plan to increase investments in during 2012 are Facebook (72%), Twitter (69%), blogs (68%), Google+ (67%), and LinkedIn (66%).

Notice a pattern here? Again, marketers are focusing primarily on the top social destinations rather than surrounding consumers with branded content so they can self-select how they want to experience and interact with the brand. The biggest destinations are the easy path. Think beyond “easy” in 2012.

 Image: Social Media Examiner