BRUSSELS: The key roles of social media include generating online "buzz" and improving core brand metrics, a poll of some of Europe's biggest marketers by the World Federation of Advertisers has found.

The WFA's survey was conducted in September 2009 among members of its Digital Network, a peer-to-peer group for interactive client-side marketers.

Some 21 companies were represented in the results, with these organisations being responsible for a sizeable share of digital adspend across Europe.

Overall, 81% of participants are planning to increase their outlay on social media in the region over the next 12 months, the WFA found.

In establishing the return on their investment, 73% of the panel currently look to the "quality" and "tone" of the feedback generated on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Just over half sample also regarded the number of impressions generated, and the impact on brand measures such as awareness levels, as being valuable metrics in this area.

More than four in ten afforded this status to the overall level of "influence" resulting from their efforts, and to the average cost per click.

A third of contributors gauged their success from positive action taken by consumers, and from the amount of time web users spent discussing their brands.

Loyalty, leads, conversions and search ranking were employed by more than a fifth of executives, with an uptick in sales mentioned by 13% of respondents.

Web analytics was the main tool used to determine these results by 58% of those taking part in the study, falling to 37% for brand tracking and using "buzz" monitoring specialists.

Some 21% also utilised bespoke research conducted with the social network(s) in question, or a mixture of methods provided by an agency with expertise in this field.

Other accountability systems included online customer surveys, econometric modelling, manual search and Google's AdWords platform.

While not statistically relevant, the findings drawn from this study are indicative of the thoughts and actions of the large multinational marketers in the WFA's Membership.

As previously reported, the industry body has argued that advertisers and their partners face substantial hurdles in establishing online ROI, and is thus working to develop common definitions and metrics that apply across different markets.

Data sourced from World Federation of Advertisers; additional content by Warc staff