If you follow online conversations about the benefits of social media for businesses, you are aware of the continuing debates about the effectiveness of social media to achieve various goals. For example, many argue that a firm cannot win new clients with social media marketing only. Our experience is that it can be done – we have done it. More important today is why are you using social media marketing? How effective is social media alone or in combination with other marketing efforts to achieve your business goals? What are your challenges using social media marketing?

According to a February 2013 study conducted by Ascend2, the top goal of businesses of all sizes is to improve customer engagement (57% of firms with less than 100 employees, 59% of companies with 100 to 1,000 employees, and 63% of organizations with 1,000 or more employees).

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Most important objectives of social media marketing efforts

Interestingly, there is disparity between the most important tactics and the effectiveness of those tactics available to the responding firms:

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What are the most effective social media marketing tactics used by your company

The final chart from the report indicates the difficulties associated with the use of social media marketing to achieve key goals:

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Most difficult social media marketing tactics to implement

Not surprisingly, the responding firms with the smallest number of employees indicate their greatest challenges in content production (article/blog content, video/audio content, and research/whitepaper content). Mid-sized firms (with 100 to 1,000 employees) report the greatest difficulty with article/blog content, but also report challenges with producing other types of content, as well. They also report challenges with administering branded blogs. Large firms (more than 1,000 employees) report their greatest challenges in administering branded social networks, creating video/audio content. They report the same level of difficulty with three tactics: creating article/blog post content, creating research/whitepaper content, and administering content sharing sites.

It is logical that the smallest firms would have the most difficulty with content creation. Smaller businesses often lack the discretionary resources to dedicate to social media marketing. Mid-sized firms also often lack the flexibility in staff assignments to reassign key team members to social media tasks. Clearly, if content production is most challenging and most important to achieving social media marketing goals, firms must either hire for the skills or outsource content production. Large companies have the same options for site and blog administration.

In both site administration and content production, outsourcing might be both the most resource-efficient and cost-effective option for firms struggling to implement social media marketing activities. The advantage of outsourcing is that you pay only for the time and services you use. Another is that you do not bear responsibility for taxes and benefits for contracted work.

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