NEW YORK: A majority of marketers in the US plan to focus on return on investment and social media over the course of 2010, a new survey has found.

The Marketing Executives Networking Group and Anderson Analytics polled more than 500 communications specialists, and reported that two-thirds were "more optimistic" about their business prospects for this year.

By contrast, just 28% suggested that the broader situation was likely to be unchanged when compared with the previous 12 months, while 6% had grown more pessimistic.

Some 73% of respondents said their marketing budgets would either increase or remain stable this year, with 87% arguing the same when it came to expenditure on R&D and innovation.

More specifically, representatives of larger companies stated they would devote around 30% of their media spending to the web, a total that climbed to 48% for smaller firms.

With regard to social media, 70% of the panel were planning to launch new initiatives via this emerging channel in the near future.

To date, 43% of featured organisations had established a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn, a figure that fell to 34% for Twitter, 20% for YouTube, while 28% had a corporate blog.

Most brand owners were developing their social media strategies in-house, with those utilising external support typically opting for specialised consultants rather than turning to their digital, advertising or PR agencies.

However, the survey also revealed that "social media", "Twitter" and "social networking" were also the "buzz words marketers are most tired of hearing."

Overall, proving a return on investment was regarded as the number one priority for contributors, having been mentioned as a key objective by 58% of executives.

It came in ahead of customer retention and brand loyalty, both on 53%, with positioning and differentiation on 52%, and branding on 50%.

Mobile marketing and social media both made the top ten on this measure, on 44% and 42% in turn, while green marketing was on 39%, and crowdsourcing was somewhat further back, on 17%.

With regard to market research, 45% of the sample will heighten their activity when it comes to generating consumer insights this year, while 44% will maintain it at a similar level as in 2009.

China was named as the geographic location that provided the biggest opportunity for growth, followed by India, Latin America and Brazil.

In terms of target demographics, baby boomers were perceived as the most profitable target audience, ahead of female shoppers and Hispanic consumers.

Apple was the most respected company on a corporate and marketing level, having been afforded this status by 57.4% of executives.

Procter & Gamble was in second, on 15.0%, with Google in third, on 8.7%, Coca-Cola in fourth, on 5.8%, and Nike in fifth, on 4.1%.

Data sourced from MENG; additional content by Warc staff