LONDON: More than 80% of marketers in the UK plan to increase their expenditure levels on social media over the course of next year, a study by Bigmouthmedia and Econsultancy reports.

The two firms surveyed 1,100 companies and agencies, and found that 90% of participants said that their activity on properties such as Facebook and Twitter was taking up more time than was the case 12 months ago.

Furthermore, 86% of the panel intended to heighten their spending on this emerging medium in 2010, with 13% also set to maintain their outlay on an annual basis.

With regard to budgets, 31% of those polled do not have any formal funding for their social media communications, while 34% divert around 5% of their resources to this channel.

Some 54% of respondents also suggested that the biggest single barrier to their making further use of this type of Web 2.0 platform was the lack of finances at their disposal to do so.

In terms of measuring the payback from current and previous initiatives on these websites, 60% of contributors had gained "some benefit but nothing concrete", while around 25% argued they had enjoyed "real, tangible value."

More positively, 52% of the sample who were "heavily involved" with social media reported they had generated a real return on their investment, a figure that fell to 13% among those organisations which had "experimented but not done much."

Some 62% of contributors have established a presence on Twitter, with 47% using it for marketing or "brand monitoring", 27% for customer service and 25% for reasons related to customer feedback.

While 31% suggested the microblogging portal offered "tremendous opportunities", a majority were still "open-minded but not fully convinced about the value to the business", and 7% saw it as more of a "fad".

Michelle Goodall, a social media and online PR consultant at Econsultancy, said "the reality is that most businesses understand how to listen, what to measure and where to engage but are struggling to define the value of engagement and reputation in social spaces."

Data sourced from Econsultancy; additional content by Warc staff