A sizeable number of European marketers specialising in Internet campaigns are either still not using social networks or admit they find it hard to grasp the brand loyalty strategies that are an integral part of social media marketing.

Only half of all marketers specialising in web projects will make use of social networks during 2011, despite the fact that two thirds of all European internet users were on these networks in 2010 and that this figure is expected to rise beyond 80% in the coming years. These are the findings of a study by Forrester Research, which also shows that just half of those Marketing professionals who haven’t so far tried this channel intend to do so during the coming twelve months.  So why this foot-dragging?  The Forrester report reveals that a third of the companies in question admit to having difficulty measuring the impact of their efforts on the consumer or not knowing whether or not their campaigns on social networks have been a success. A third of the companies surveyed also stated that their main priority in being on the social networks was to create a buzz around their brand but only 12% of them claimed to actually be able to measure their impact.

Poor measurement of goal-achievement

Marketers focus more on the traffic generated by the social networks than actual commitment or sense of attachment to a brand. So European companies have difficulty channelling investment into interactive marketing. According to Nate Elliot, a Vice-President at Forrester who authored the report, if companies continue to measure results using poor data, the budgets allocated to interactive marketing are unlikely to increase. Thus 36% of the companies polled  say they will not spend more than  €175,000 on social networks in 2011. Some 22% don’t even know what resources they will be able to allocate to this area. Such uncertainty prevents marketers from planning and using the social media effectively.

Shortage of skills

Another drawback: around a fifth of the firms polled admit they have difficulty finding qualified staff to manage social network strategies and cordinate the communities – either because of a shortage of skills or a shortage of funds.  It’s vital therefore that companies hire people who are well-versed in the ways of the social networks or train their existing staff better. Companies also tend to call on a range of different providers to look after the social network side - Communication consultancies, creative agencies, PR firms, social media specialists and so on. All too often, these various firms battle each other rather than cooperate so it’s absolutely essential to draw up a precise action plan in advance, setting out clearly the role of each provider.