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Social media now accounts for up to a quarter of marketing budgets, but brands need to do more to connect it to the “lifeblood and workflow” of wider business, according to new research published by Hootsuite.

The ‘Social Transformation Report’ takes a deep dive into how modern businesses are using social media to not only generate and connect with new leads and increase brand value, but also to drive greater operational efficiency across the business.

The first major insight is that investment in social media campaigns is growing. The process now captures between 13% and 24% of overall marketing budgets and is having a positive effect in a number of key areas.

Almost three quarters (73%) of the 2,162 respondents say that social media has enabled them to engage with prospective clients and customers in a way that is more efficient than other channels or media.

Perhaps more importantly for marketing as a whole, 63% claim that using social media is actually driving a greater level of efficiency from other forms of media.

In addition, when social media is integrated business-wide and each department is able to use it to build strong relationships, its value increases significantly, which suggests that the practice can lead to “organisational transformation”.

Two-thirds say that social media is now being used to forge closer bonds with their community, while a large number also believe that it is doing the same for employees and partners.

The findings indicate that social media works best when it extends beyond the marketing department, though the act of publishing high-quality content is generally the catalyst for all the subsequent benefits.

“For social platforms to work for organisations, they need to do more than simply post to the social platforms but also leverage social listening, use data to make better social decisions, integrate with their existing tech stacks, and seek the training and education to achieve their overarching business goals,” Hootsuite’s CEO Tom Keiser said in a statement.

Keiser added that social media needs to be focused on the customer’s experience first and foremost, and that more employees should be involved in the planning and execution of strategies on social media.

Those able to build a ‘mature’ approach to social media do benefit. Six in 10 of these organisations say that it has laid the groundwork for building stronger relationships – something that continues to benefit the business day in, day out.

Mature social media marketers also report a 300% increase in the improvement of brand sentiment. The report noted that this has been particularly important this year following the outbreak of COVID-19 as brands have often struggled to conduct conversations and develop relationships with customers.

In order to maximise the power of social media, Hootsuite advised organisations to use social listening to understand the needs of audiences with the view to building stronger relationships. The next stage requires the integration of social into the fabric of business culture so that everyone can use it as a strategic communications tool.

Effective social media management, whether built in-house or outsourced, is a “stepping stone” to wider digital transformation, a senior industry analyst concluded.


Four in 10 companies are now reallocating marketing spend to more cost-effective, organic channels amid a wider push for change driven by digital transformation and the global pandemic, a new joint study by MediaMonks and Forrester Research has found.

At the start of the year, only 40% of marketing leaders were focusing on new digital approaches to processes and activities, a mindset that was characterised as “important but not urgent”.

While that outlook may have appeared complacent in the age of artificial intelligence, cloud computing and machine learning, many would not have been able to predict the impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of business.

Leaders were generally focused on putting ‘tech pipes’ in place that could support a solid tech infrastructure, but this changed in March. Almost two-thirds of leaders are now not only prioritising but also actively accelerating digital experience initiatives to support marketing and sales.

“It’s surprising how much the concept of digital transformation has been removed from actually delivering better digital experiences for consumers, after a decade of work mostly defined and delivered by consultancies,” MediaMonks co-founder Wesley ter Haar notes.

He adds that digital transformation was often mired in the process of getting things done rather than being implemented for a specific end goal.

This has changed, at least for now. Marketing leaders are enacting digital schemes and restructuring teams to ensure that marketing spend is funnelled into better channels and formats. 42% of respondents say that they are doing this.

A focus on publishing high-quality, targeted content is also taking precedence. The report urges brands to better understand customers’ needs so that they can deliver tailored content at the right time – something that will also help with the objective of delivering more relevant digital experiences.

It is no surprise, then, that 56% of the 366 global marketing decision makers surveyed said that teams are now prioritising new initiatives and that 48% are retraining employees to improve data and analytics.

Just 23% admit that they are well versed and successful in using analytics to determine the performance of marketing campaigns. The report said that brands and their partners should make analytics, which is also central to SEO and search strategies, a top priority as there is a mass of data that can be mined for insights.

Analytics is one of the top skills that marketing leaders are looking for to support ‘digital first’ initiatives, second only to content development, highlighting how the two are closely linked.

Marketers also want more design/virtualisation and AI/machine skills. 

The report also said that marketers must recognise that customers now need to be engaged across a “series of touchpoints” that places more emphasis on content creation and experiences. These journeys can start with virtual events and then move through digital experiences on apps, social and commerce before being nurtured via automated email marketing.

Brands are also advised to work with select partners to support omnichannel solutions and experiences across broader ecosystems. It concluded that unifying all of these important marketing touchpoints will help companies to drive sustainable impact and growth.