Missing LinkTop CMOs emerged from the social media discovery phase in 2010, convinced of the value of participation and determined to map their brands’ social engagement to real business metrics instead of relying only on “circumstantial evidence” like Twitter followers and volume of mentions. What’s more, they experienced the value of distilling customer conversations into powerful product insights and decision support, seeing the highest ROI from user-generated content.

For 2011, they see measurement as a top-priority growth area; 74% of CMOs surveyed predict that they will find the “missing link” between social and revenue in the year ahead. These are just a few of the findings in CMOs on Social Marketing Plans for 2011, our new report on a survey of leading CMO Club members in both the B2C and B2B spaces. Here’s a bit more of what we discovered.

CMOs struggle to find the link between social and revenue

Fifty-four percent of respondents were unable to tie any revenue to social media in 2010, but roughly three out of four expect to make the connection in 2011. A small minority, 7%, don’t plan on tracking social metrics at all in 2011.

Companies are willing to try social before making the bottom-line connection

Despite not being able to locate direct ties to established business metrics, nearly all CMOs in our study—90%—said their brands were engaged in three or more social activities. Business participation was extremely high in company blogs, brand communities and Facebook.

ROI is user-generated

Of the tools being used by companies, the value of those powered by customer conversations, user-generated content, is the most apparent to respondents. For example, 73% are leveraging ratings and reviews, and 59% of them say it accounts for average or significant ROI. Online brand communities and company blogs trace back to average or significant ROI for 56% and 48% of CMOs using them, respectively.

Decision support goes social

CMOs are moving beyond merely listening, into a model in which gathered customer insights are actually informing product and service decisions. This relationship between insights and action will grow even stronger in 2011, with 93% of respondents planning on using at least one UGC stream (such as customer polling, Twitter comments, ratings and reviews and product suggestions) as decision support .

Again, what I’ve included here is just a preview of some of our most interesting conclusions.