According to the latest predictions from research firm, Forrester, social media marketing spend in the US will rise from $716 million in 2009 to £3,113 million in 2014. The accuracy of these figures may be up for debate – all the research in the world isn’t going to tell you how the world will change in five years time, and the beauty of the being an analyst is that few people ever test your long term predictions – but it certainly points to a clear trend, which is more useful than any attempts to pin precise numbers on the potential size of the industry.

Source: Forrester Research

As the chart shows, social media is expected to be the fastest growing online marketing sector by a significant margin (although, unsurprisingly, mobile is also expected to grow significantly, but people have been expecting that to explode for a long time now).

The reasons for this should be clear, the marketing industry is currently experiencing a sea change for a wide range of reasons, including:

  • Modern consumers are marketing savvy and cynical of traditional brand messaging, you can’t spoon-feed them your pitch and expect them to swallow it any more
  • Conventional advertising is losing its effectiveness. People are increasingly using their PVRs (SKY+ boxes) to skip through TV adverts, internet users are developing ad-blindness, print and radio are also suffering
  • The internet is making it easier for consumers to share their brand experiences with each other – this is increasingly informing their purchasing decisions more than the brand’s own communications

People want to deal with businesses that respect their intelligence by engaging them in interesting conversations, rather than doggedly pushing sanitised, on-message marketing blurb into their face through tightly controlled old-world channels. Consumers are saying: If you want my attention, you need to talk to me like a human being.

This is what social media is all about, and this is the future of marketing – figuring out how to talk to your customers (and other stakeholders) like real people  – and the figures from Forrester support this idea. It’s really only a matter of time before social media forms the core of all marketing activity.

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