THETFORD CENTER: Only 15% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) in the US are able to state with any confidence that they can demonstrate quantitatively the impact of social media on their business, new research has shown.

The CMO Survey from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business had 410 respondents, of whom 93% were VP level or above and sought, among other things, to measure the business impact of social media and marketing spending.

It found that 49% of CMOs had been unable to show how social media spending had affected their business, while the remaining 36% had a good qualitative, but not quantitative, sense of the impact.

This contrasted with their understanding of overall marketing spend, where 36% said they could prove the short-term impact and 32% the long-term impact quantitatively, figures which some might regard as surprisingly low.

CMOs clearly have some work to do, especially as spending levels on social media are set to increase. Where currently 6.6% of marketing budgets are allocated to social media, this is set to rise to 9.1% in the coming 12 months and to 15.8% over the next five years.

Marketing Charts noted, however, that CMOs had been more optimistic about social media spending in past iterations of the survey and suggested CMOs were not following through on their spending plans.

The current social media allocation of 6.6% was less than the 7.6% anticipated last year. And the short-term figure of 9.1% had declined from 10.7%, while the longer term allocation of 15.8% had dropped from 18.8%.

The survey also broke down social media spending by business type and revealed that while it is currently highest among B2B services companies, where it accounts for 7.8% of marketing budgets, within the next 12 months they will be overtaken by B2C services companies (10.7%). And over a five-year period they will in turn be surpassed by B2C product companies (19.5%).

As well as getting on top of measuring social ROI, marketers need to concentrate on integrating social media into wider marketing strategies. The survey showed there has been little movement on this for the past 36 months, with a mean score of 3.9 on a scale of one (not integrated) to seven (very integrated).

Data sourced from Marketing Charts, Duke University; additional content by Warc staff