Since the day social media stepped onto the scene, it’s shown no signs of slowing down. And according to a study on eMarketer, that’s not soon to change. In fact, by surveying managers from Fortune 100 companies, researchers found top digital marketers plan to give social media a higher percentage of the digital marketing spend over the next three years.

Incorporating social into your overall marketing strategy doesn’t mean what it used to. In the beginning, when social media was in its infancy, brands thought of a social strategy as: creating a Facebook page, creating a Twitter handle, then pushing content out into the world, hoping for some occasional interaction. Well, things have changed.

First of all, your social strategy should never be treated as a stand-alone effort. Achieve maximum reach and success by integrating your social media efforts with your overall marketing strategy. Use social media to support your other channels and vice versa. It not only improves your branding efforts, but also humanizes your brand by allowing consumers to be a part of the conversation.

In addition, with the help of more robust tools, such as radian6 and Omniture, brands can gain much more insight from their social channels. Monitoring conversations within the social sphere helps brands better understand their customers: Who are they? What are their needs? What are they buying? What are they interested in? It also provides a channel for quick consumer response. On top of that, brands can get an inside look at how consumers are talking about their competitors. What are they doing right/wrong, and how can you use that to improve your own brand?

Like I said, the building blocks of a successful social strategy have changed, allowing brands to better integrate with the overall marketing strategy, track and analyze data to make better business decisions, and monitor conversations to gain insight into customer needs and opinions. And according to the study, it seems as though brands are catching on. Here are some highlights of what the study found:

  • 67% of respondents said social media made up less than 5% of the total digital marketing spend in 2011
  • 32% predict social media will be between 5-10% of the digital marketing spend in three years; 27% predict it will be 10-20%; 28% predict it will be more than 20%
  • 59% have plans for social media monitoring and rapid response capabilities
  • 56% are building plans for consumer insights generation via social media
  • 47% will build plans for key performance indicators and dashboards for social media