The majority of large businesses regard social media as playing a key role within their marketing and wider business strategies, according to research by Econsultancy and Adobe. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The sixth quarterly digital intelligence briefing, entitled 'Managing and Measuring Social', examined the opportunities and challenges facing organisations that are trying to put the social channel at the heart of their marketing strategies.

Based on a survey of more than 650 digital marketers, the report found that:

  • 66% of digital marketers surveyed working client-side for companies with an annual turnover of more than £100 million agreed that 'social media is integral to business strategy', while almost the same proportion (67%) said that social media activity was 'integral to their marketing mix'.
  • Only 22% of marketers at larger organisations agree that they are able to harness social data successfully.
  • 70% of marketers across agency and client-side believe social media needs to be more rooted in data.

Among the practical advice offered by Econsultancy, the study suggests key strategies including how to best approach niche social networks (such as Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram), and how to decide where social really fits into multiple business strategies and how to set hard target KPIs (key performance indicators) by stage and objective.

According to Econsultancy's research director, Linus Gregoriadis, "Marketers are awash with social-related data coming from a range of marketing tools related to monitoring, managing and measuring social activity. The challenge is to make sense of that information in the context of broader marketing campaigns and business objectives."

The research, which coincided with the launch of Adobe Social, also found that many companies are struggling to define objectives for their social activity and to measure success appropriately. Only 28% of smaller companies and 42% of the larger companies surveyed said they measured their performance against defined social media objectives.

Neil Morgan, senior director of digital marketing solutions for Adobe (EMEA), concluded: "While it is apparent that the social space is maturing, it is also very clear that there is a need to better manage and measure social media efforts. Social marketers are recognising that they cannot rely merely on results focused on fans, followers and top level sentiment, but need metrics and objectives with long-term and meaningful significance. Mature social media marketing is about customer segmentation, multichannel integration and business impact."