NEW DELHI: Some 86% of marketing professionals and advertisers in India predict social media will be an important part of their long-term strategies, but two-thirds argue that "most marketers only have a cursory understanding" of the medium, a survey from exchange4media and Blogworks says.

The poll of 267 marketers and business leaders found that 58% of respondents think social media will have a "huge impact" over the next two years, with 38% saying it will have "some impact," and just 2% opting for "very little impact".

Just under half of those questioned spend less than 5% of their total budget on social media initiatives, compared with 15% diverting over 20% of their outlay into this channel.

A total of 21% said social media and blogs have a "huge impact" on business and marketing, compared with 69% arguing these devices exert "some impact", and 8% opting for "very little" or "no" impact.

In all, 79.2% also felt that these portals were most effective in terms of connecting with consumers and the media, while 65% saw them as a means of engaging employees and "influencers".

Social media was also thought to help generate "buzz" and word-of-mouth by 89.4% of those polled, with 66% asserting that it helped the process of generating consumer insight.

A further 62% suggested that many Web 2.0 properties drive engagement, but just 35% reported that the primary result of using the medium was an upturn in sales.

However, 67% of the panel agreed social media can have "some impact" on revenue levels, with 18% saying it had a "huge impact", and just 12% arguing it had minimal or no role to play.

Using sites like Orkut and Facebook was the most popular activity, with a 44% participation rate, while 38% of participants had uploaded photos or video to the web, 35% had a company blog, and 28% had used mobile marketing.

Some 45% of advertisers and marketers measured the success of social media campaigns in terms of an improvement in brand awareness, with upturns in user-generated content, search engine rankings and positive feedback also used to gauge positive results.

Over half of contributors also predicted that social media spending would increase even if the Indian advertising market slowed down, while just 9% forecast a decrease should this occur.

Data sourced from Blogworks; additional content by WARC staff