Since 2008 the CMO Survey has been conducted by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business (with sponsorship by McKinsey & Company and the AMA). As the marketing landscape evolves, so do the questions asked of marketing leaders, 88% of which are VP’s or higher up the food chain. The survey makes an effort to select questions that can be asked reliably survey-after-survey to allow identification of trends.

Such is the case with most of the questions regarding social media that have been asked for several surveys. Reflecting on the most recent CMO Survey below are some thoughts about social media’s representation in the study.

Social Media Acceptance

Social media is all but accepted by marketing leadership now. Just a handful of years back it was a gamble – something that couldn’t be proved out, and thus many marketers weren’t ready to embrace it.

As social media has cemented itself in popular culture it’s also won over marketing leadership. So much has changed, but some things seem to have, disturbingly, remained the same.

State of the State

According to the survey, in general, marketing seems to be in relatively good shape. Marketers continue to have optimism about the future and are reflecting that in budgets and marketing investment. Still troubling as far as marketing activity is concerned, is how much of success is still measured by soft, qualitative means as opposed to quantitative.

As social media exuberance echoes, much of what is observed elsewhere in the survey across both B2B and B2C businesses is in product and service organizations. There is increased investment and commitment to social media across the board.

social media budget increases

The marketing budget being allocated to social media is expected to rise to over 10% in the next 12 months, an increase of more than 35% over current levels. Asked to look out over the subsequent 5 years, senior marketers estimated social media would consume over 18% of marketing budgets.

social media staffing increases

Staffing shows actual, net expected gains. In a year, the average number of social media employees (in-house and outsourced) performing social media for an organization has more than doubled from 2.8 in February of 2013, to 6.3 in the same month of 2014.

With investment on the rise, it seems as if things must be going pretty well. But are they? From an impact standpoint the survey did seek to answer that question.

Measuring Social Media’s Impact

With money and staff being poured at social media, one would think its impact was obvious and quantifiable, but it is not.

49.2% of respondents admitted, “We haven’t been able to show the impact [of social media] yet.” When asked “Which best describes how you show the impact of social media on your business?” just shy of half – 49.2% of respondents admitted, “We haven’t been able to show the impact yet.” Just under 35% cited a qualitative sense of impact leaving a meager 15.9% able to prove qualitative impact.

There are several ills of why social media suffers with these types of discouraging responses. One of the most fundamental ills is illuminated in the same survey.

Disintegration

To the question “How well is social media integrated with marketing strategy?” results were a mixed bag, but one thing is for sure, very few are effectively practicing social media in a well-integrated fashion.

Rich social media insights aren’t being gathered, or at the very least aren’t being shared with other teams that could use them to provide a more personalized or valuable experience

Lack of integration says a lot. From professional experience, to our teams at LaneTerralever, it says that it’s unlikely that a good tracking system is in place. It also says that there haven’t been efforts made to attribute social media activity’s role in conversion tracking, that inside it’s silo, rich social media insights aren’t being gathered, or at the very least aren’t being shared with other teams that could use them to provide a more personalized or valuable experience.

If Not Now, When?

After working with multiple businesses on their social media efforts, we see the siloes all the time. They mask the power that social media can have across an organization. While investment in social media continues to rise, it’s on faith – a promise of a return in some future. In reality, that future doesn’t show any signs of coming soon.

Again, the survey helps us see a trend to the question “How effectively is social media linked to your firm’s marketing strategy?” the average score has been 3.8 on a 7 point scale each time. It has been measured since February of 2011 striking a meager deviance to a 3.9 in August of 2013.

Will the Party End?

It doesn’t seem like the party is over for social media. It shouldn’t be either. What senior marketers need to do is focus on the integration of social media as well as all the tools in their marketing toolbox under a unified strategy, then track the impact of the activities across different channels and programs, and start thinking holistically. Break those siloes. Things look good now, but at some point marketers, especially senior marketers, will be called in and asked where ROI abounds and where it lags. Until then, keep the faith.