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Social Studies 3.0
The number of active users on Facebook alone is expected to eclipse the total population of China by 2015. And according to the results of our 2014 Social Media Marketing Survey, the medium's popularity and potential have yet to reach their peak. By Travis Stanton
ust four short years ago, Facebook boasted 608 million users who interacted with the site on at least a monthly basis. Today, that number has more than doubled, with monthly users topping 1.2 billion. Similarly, the percentage of companies using social media as an exhibit-marketing tool has more than doubled as well, from 31 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2014.

According to the results of our 2014 Social Media Marketing Survey, which is the third in a series of research efforts aimed at determining how exhibit and event marketers are using social media, the momentum behind the medium continues to grow. In 2010, EXHIBITOR surveyed 400 marketers to gather data on everything from which social-media sites were most popular for marketing purposes to what corporate objectives, if any, social media was helping companies to achieve. With that benchmark in place, the data from our 2012 and 2014 surveys paints a clear picture: The use of social media as a marketing tool has exploded over the past four years.

Today, more than a third of marketers have a dedicated social-media manager or department whose primary responsibility is to strategize, execute, and monitor their brands' social-media presence. That's in contrast to 2010, when roughly 85 percent of corporate social-media campaigns were completed without the aid of dedicated social-media subject-matter experts.

Nine out of 10 marketers say their companies are currently using social media for myriad purposes, including exhibit marketing (80 percent), event marketing (47 percent), and other general marketing purposes (86 percent). And those who are tapping into the marketing potential of social media claim increased brand awareness, enriched relationships with clients and prospects, increased booth traffic and event attendance, additional press coverage, and even increased sales as direct results of their campaigns. However, less than a third of marketers are proactively setting measurable objectives or tracking any metrics to prove the success or failure of their social-media efforts.

Furthermore, the marketing benefits of social media – once believed to be "free" – don't come without their own fixed costs. Twenty-eight percent of marketers have invested in paid features (such as boosted/promoted posts, ads, etc.) to propel their success on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. And 35 percent of respondents report spending six or more hours per week working on projects related to social media. Bottom line, social media is anything but free.

Still, the majority of respondents agree that social media is a powerful tool for face-to-face marketers, with 89 percent claiming that it holds "moderate" or even "limitless" potential for exhibit and event marketing. And 67 percent of respondents anticipate that the importance of social media as a marketing tool will increase "strongly" or "somewhat" in the coming year.



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