Report: Social Media Marketing Up During Recession


I’m sitting across the street from the SXSW convention center, yesterday the organizer Hugh Forrest told me that attendees to the Interactive portion (a great deal with a focus on social) was up aprox 20% (just an approximation). I’ve seen many social media strategists (see list) here at the conference that are here to network with the influencers, get educated at the sessions, and to soak in what community really means.

During a recession, marketers are often forced to reduce budgets, in fact, it’s often one of the first buckets to get trimmed. In our latest research: Social Media Playtime is Over, we found that 53% of marketers are determined to increase their social media budget during a recession, and 42% will keep it the same, a total of 95% of marketers bullish on social media marketing. Why? The reasons are obvious to some, it’s inexpensive and the opportunity to benefit from cost-effective word-of-mouth, are promising.

Now this doesn’t mean that budgets are expanding immensely, since this is a ‘new’ media, these are small budgets. How small? I say minuscule. Three-quarters of marketers have $100,000 of less budgeted for social media marketing.

Even though the budgets are small and growing, we recommend to our clients, in order to be successful, not to approach social media marketing as experimental, but to put the right roles, process, and measurement capabilities in place to be effective. Remember, the most expensive cost isn’t the tools, the most expensive part is the soft costs: strategy, education, process, roles, measurement).

Key Takeaway? Social media budgets are small, but are growing during a recession, yet brands shouldn’t approach this as an experiment, and should have a proper strategy complete with objectives, roles, processes, and measurement.

I’d like to thank Tom Cummings who lead the survey effort and data cleansing, Emily Bowen who kept us on track, and Josh Bernoff for his insight and editing for the collaborative effort on this report –without them, this report would not have published, it’s great to work with a top-notch research team.

Related Voices

  • Adweek’s Brian Morrissey: Notes that the budgets are quite small, in his piece Social Media Outlay Still Small
  • Read Write Web: Despite Recession, More Than 50% of Marketers Increase Spending on Social Media
  • Marketing Pilgrim: Forrester Report Suggests Marketers Still Spend Peanuts on Social Media, But Increases Planned
  • BL suggests there are still going to be internal challenges to strategy, objective, and roles.
  • Colleague Josh Bernoff reinforces: Recession resistant: 95% of social media marketers will maintain or increase social media spending
  • 78 Replies to “Report: Social Media Marketing Up During Recession”

    1. Great information Jeremiah. I think this has less to do with the recession (some companies are actually doing okay) and more to do with the fact that companies are seeing this is as a vital prong in the media landscape. And, as I wrote today – we don’t really need “social media experts” – we need good marketers. All marketers should understand social media by now. A core element of being a communications professional is staying at the edge of how society communicates.

    2. The great thing about social media is there are no set rules. However in order to have fun and make any type of name for yourself in it you have to realize what your agenda is for it. Very few people who are heavily involved don’t have some type of plan behind what they are doing.

      It’s no different for an entire brand.

    3. I was searching for a post like this – and now here it is! Thanks Jeremiah – this is helpful to me in what I am trying to accomplish…

    4. Thanks for the information, Jeremiah. This is great news for those in PR. Still, it seems as though there is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding social media, but very little actual coherent strategy.

    5. Right on Jeremiah. I think now that the social media is well beyond mainstream, the executive level is taking notice and are allowing the move from ‘experiment’ to strategic execution. Also due to the low barrier to entry, low hard costs, and potential returns.

    6. Wow. Great information to share here.

      I definitely agree with your point that as more and more companies start incorporating social media into their communications and business operations, the need for strategy is more important than ever (recession or not).

    7. well keeping in mind that as you indicate budgets are coming off a very low base – But this just makes sense. Just as Zappos uses social media the social media “spend” can come out of other budgets = Social Media is not just marketing , it is customer service, it is communications, it is PR, and much much more.

    8. One area where I think social media could have a much bigger role is having doctors use it to help manage their patient communication. For instance, if they are running late with their appointments that day (or cancelling them to go to emergency surgery), Twitter is a quick and easy way to communicate their status.

    9. Andrew, we polled marketers for this. In many cases most social media budgets are within the marketing department. No doubt there will be spill over to other departments.

    10. Jeremiah,

      Thank you for this great post. I was explaining to a potential client last week that social media is part of the overall marketing strategy. The client only wanted to discuss the social media because Twitter has been on nearly every news cast and talk show for the last few weeks.

      Schenkel’s point about customer service is also well thought out.

    11. Jeremiah,

      This seems to be consistent with what we also hear from clients. It seems to me that the “kick-the-tire” era of social media is giving way to a more integrated focus within marketing, global insights and customer relationship management. Thanks for the new data.


    12. This makes sense. The social landscapes are basically free to use just require time and patience but to launch an offline campaign you cold hard capital. With social media you need to restructure a few job titles in the department and you can at least get started.

    13. Good point Jared, to the untrained eye it may seem that social media campaigns are whim based and without strategy or tactical components, but nothing could be further from reality. When you look at successful case studies you can see that a lot of structure and thought has been put into them.

      Good article, Jeremiah!

    14. I like the focus you emphasis strategists should put on roles and processes in their budgeting and in their execution.

      If you think about a long-term strategy, setting these policies now I think are going to be extremely important. How would long term strategies and social media budgets change if this increase gets follied by bad experimenting.

      Education, policies, and roles are a bet on the long term.

    15. I think a lot of people are attempting to figure out how to manipulate social media as a marketing tool. Love to hear any tips they shared at the conference.

    16. I actually came across a great article recently on NetBanker that focused on banks and credit union’s use of Twitter ( The interesting thing here is that the banks getting the most out of their Twitter accounts are those using social media to handle customer relations. They’re not trying to market so much as they’re trying to be transparent and handle concerns as they arise online. I think that those unsure of how to approach social media should understand that this is an opportunity to be yourself and help brand your company as honest and helpful. I believe that above all in this current economic climate, consumers aren’t wanting to be sold – they’re wanting to be reassured and educated.

      My advice to anybody diving into social media with their company is to be transparent, informative and educational. This is exactly what myself and others at were pushing when we released the TIE Principles (

      Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    17. Interesting article, however something is not clear to me.

      SM is mostly about conversation (look at Twitter for instance) so, where this budgets will go and on which parts? Word of mouth can be sponsored, but not bought as a textlink.

      Surely something should be allocated for a monitoring platform such Radian6 or Buzzmetrics, but it’d be interesting to know if for spending we are talking about moving budgets to specialised social media agencies instead of big media centers, training and recruiting internal staff dedicated to social media… etc… etc…

    18. Interesting to see many companies begin to push their online campaigns through traditional marketing channels. When doing this one needs to make sure the message is the same across all channels. A confused message across channels would be disastrous.

    19. I saw this statistic on e-marketer.. That’s crazy! I think that social media marketing agencies like us are seeing a lot of business from the shrinking print industry.

    20. Я, хоть и не ваш постоянный читатель, но всё же выскажу свое мнение. На ваш блог попал случайно. Однако узнал много чего нового и интересного. Так что, как говорится, ПЕШЫ ИСЧО 🙂

    21. I have a Scottsdale SEO company that has been doing my Internet Marketing and I am impressed at the amount of search engine exposure I have received and the value it has brought to my marketing efforts.

    22. Social media marketing isn't going to slow down, it can be very cheap and has the potential to reach bucket loads of people! Combine it with email marketing and you've got a winning strategy!

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