Social is as social does. That’s me doing my best attempt to channel Forrest Gump. Why? Because like in the movie, this expression essentially signifies that people will follow what others do, often without knowing why. Sometimes it’s important simply because everyone else is doing it. Call it a form of social proof if you will, the age-old psychological phenomenon where, in the absence of making decisions on their own accord, people are often influenced by the behavior of others in any given situation.  This behavior is now the case with social media and its permeation of business and marketing.

In 2007, I published the Social Media Manifesto, which served as a rallying cry to help businesses understand the new opportunity for transparency and engagement presented by social technology and the resulting shift in consumer expectations. While that may seem like recent history, it is in fact a bygone era. Times are just different now.

Just one year prior to publishing the manifesto, Twitter debuted to a then (and in some cases now) skeptical audience. Facebook opened to the general public shortly thereafter. In November 2006, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion. What seems mainstay today was just materializing then. Ultimately, the momentum underway would ultimately transform the channels. Consumer touchpoints were evolving…quickly. And in many ways, that’s still the case.

Here we are in the present day and social media is now the new normal. Smart, connected mobile devices are now our digital appendages. So, just because social media and mobile are ubiquitous, what does it mean in aggregate and what do we need to consider moving forward? Technorati Media’s 2013 Digital Influence Report might have the answers or offer some insights that might help paint a clearer picture.

The New Normal

What does the “new” normal look like for social media in business? The answer is prevalence.

According to Technorati Media’s report, 91% of brands manage a presence on Facebook. 85% and 73% stated that they manage presences on Twitter and Youtube respectively. Interestingly enough, Pinterest ranks fourth with 41%, ahead of LinkedIn, blogs, Instagram, and Google+.

Digital Spending

When it comes to spending, budgets on overall digital efforts are not as high as you may think and they’re distributed. 30% and 11% of all digital budgets represent total spends of less than $10 million. 22% of budgets however jump up to $10-$25 million, 14% range from $25-$50 million, and a whopping 10% boast $100M+ digital budgets.

Budget Breakdowns

It appears as if the dead or dying display ad still ranks almighty at 41% of overall digital budgets I guess that old school box of clickable pixels no one supposedly sees or clicks on still has merit. What Google refers to as the “Zero Moment of Truth” ranks a strong second with search representing 19% of overall digital spend. Video cannot be underestimated and here we can see that brands are making the investment at 14% of overall digital budgets, which is ahead of social ads at 10%.

When you look at how the 10% is distributed, you see that brands “like” Facebook at 57%. YouTube and Twitter share the second, though distant, spot at 13% apiece.

Digital Budget Outlook

Brand managers and service providers have reason to celebrate. Digital budgets across the board are not only increasing, they’re soaring. For example, mobile budgets will skyrocket by 79%. Social advertising and video will shoot up 59%. Additionally, search and display advertising will spiral 37% and 31% respectively.

On the contrary, there are brands that will decrease spending on these fronts, which may or may not indicate interesting, but unknown insights. In these cases…

- 23% are slashing display advertising

- 6% are trimming video

- 3% are cutting social advertising

- 2% will reduce mobile spend

Paid vs. Earned Media

 

On the other side of any paid media strategy is owned and earned media. To balance paid efforts, it’s interesting to note that more than half (55%) of brands have stated that earned media goals are a priority. While some of these goals deliver somewhat tangible or at least accepted outcomes, others are still a bit soft.

For example, most brands report earned media goals as Facebook Likes (68%) whereas only 64% would list increasing website traffic as a top goal. Now, don’t get me wrong, often website traffic could be irrelevant if the website itself is designed to underperform or fail in design or in the context of various screens (smartphone, tablet, PC, TV).  But with solid, scalable designs centered on dynamic, desired click paths, traffic could mean the difference between a lead or at least sustained interest. Instead, we see here that traffic is bookended by Likes and Facebook fans at 59%.  You’ll notice earned media goals waver from social “activity” to traditional events as you move from left to right.

 

 

What’s clear according to the Technorati report, is that not only is it a case of “social is as social does,” complementary-yet-dedicated cross-channel digital strategies are becoming much more important to the success of brand marketing strategies. With effective experimentation, budgets can flow through to fund the appropriate mix of successful engagement programs across an increasingly distributed series of touchpoints. That’s how smarter, connected brands will learn to thrive in the new moments of truth.

How does this compare to your digital and social strategy?

 

Brian Solis is the author of the new book, The End of Business as Usual. He is also a principal analyst at Altimeter Group. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.