LONDON: Marketers need to be more serious about planning, budgeting and measuring social media campaigns, according to a new Warc report.

The "Seriously Social" study - available to Warc clients here, with a free sample for others - analysed nearly 800 case studies featuring a social media element that won awards in 14 industry schemes and were later published on Warc between January 2011 and September 2012.

Compared to the average of all campaign cases on Warc during this period, campaigns with a social element tended to be shorter, have lower budgets and be less likely to report a quantified effect on financial metrics like sales or market share.

Overall, campaigns with a social media component made up 55% of the sample but only 51% of winners of Gold Awards or its equivalent in prizes not using a Gold/Silver/Bronze classification.

At the lower end of the budget spectrum, cases including social media accounted for 44% of all cases in the sample with a budget below US$500k, but only 28% of all Gold winners were social-involving cases from this budget category.

Examples of social media being deployed as a commercially effective stand-alone platform, rather than being used in combination with other channels, were also rare.

The report's authors, Peter Field, a leading consultant, and Carlos Grande, editor of Warc, argue that deployments of social media, particularly in multi-media campaigns, do not need to lack ambition or rigour. They showcase more than a dozen recommended examples, and reference 40 more, from around the world.

They call on marketers to become more "serious" about their social activity, and they invite parties with industry-advancing knowledge to help shape the debate and future editions of the report.

"Growth in the usage of social media has outpaced growth in objective understanding of how to use it effectively for communications. It is time to bridge the knowledge gap," they argued.

"Social media might not always be the right choice for every context. But in order for marketers to extract more value from their investments in this field, it is time for social media to be taken more seriously."

Unilever, the FMCG company, topped the list of the "most social" brands and brand owners on Warc leveraging this channel, with 46 prize-winning initiatives, ahead of Procter & Gamble, from the same sector, on 31.

Kraft, the grocery group, posted a score of 18 on this metric, beating Mars, the confectionery giant, on 15 and Coca-Cola, the soft drinks manufacturer, on 14. A list of the top 15 "social brands" is available on the Warc Blog.

Facebook was mentioned in 79% of the studied campaigns making use of social media. Twitter posted 41% here, having overtaken YouTube, which has "reached a plateau" on roughly 40%.

The report – which has the full title "Seriously Social – a casebook of effectiveness trends in social media campaigns" – showcases campaigns using social media from firms including American Express, Audi, P&G, Wal-Mart and Virgin Mobile.

It covers strategic planning, budgeting, integration, measurement and future trends in social media.

Alongside being made available to Warc subscribers, it can also be purchased on a stand-alone basis from the Warc Store.

Data sourced from Warc