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ew things have swept the globe as swiftly as the social-media craze. In fact, in just six months between January and July of 2009, Facebook alone grew from 42 million U.S. users to nearly 72 million, a 70.8-percent growth spurt.

To determine how exhibit and event marketers are utilizing social media, and whether they view it as a waste of time or a valuable new arrow in their marketing quiver, Exhibitor Media Group invited nearly 8,000 marketing professionals to participate in the 2010 Social Media in Marketing Survey.

According to the research — which was made possible by GetSynchronicity, Skyline Exhibits Inc., Echelon Design Inc., and Exhib-It Tradeshow Marketing Experts — two-thirds of respondents have used social-media sites and tools for marketing purposes, including exhibit- and event-marketing campaigns. And while the majority of them are turning to Facebook and similar social-networking sites, many others are using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, microblog services such as Twitter, video-sharing sites such as YouTube, and internal or external microsites and business blogs. But the so-called “free” services offered via social-media sites don’t come without their own fixed costs, as nearly a third of respondents currently using social media report spending six or more hours per week strategizing, executing, and monitoring their social-media presence. And nearly 10 percent of respondents dedicate 21 hours or more, per week, to their social-media campaigns. In an era when doing more with less is no longer a cliché but a corporate mandate, it’s clear social media is anything but free.

That time-intensive reality check appears to be the primary hurdle among the one-third of respondents who are not currently incorporating social media into their companies’ marketing efforts. “Lack of time to dedicate to social media” was the most popular reason for not venturing into the new virtual frontier, followed by “lack of knowledge on how to successfully integrate social media with other marketing efforts.”

Still, the majority of survey respondents agree that social media is a powerful tool for face-to-face marketers, with 90 percent claiming that it holds “moderate” or even “limitless” potential for exhibit and event marketing. And 76 percent of respondents anticipate that the importance of social media as a marketing tool will increase “strongly” or “somewhat” in the coming year. E

About the Survey
The 2010 Social Media in Marketing Survey was conducted by Exhibitor Media Group, and sponsored by GetSynchronicity, Skyline Exhibits Inc., Echelon Design Inc., and Exhib-It Tradeshow Marketing Experts. Survey invitations were delivered, via e-mail, to 7,945 marketing professionals who subscribe to EXHIBITOR magazine and/or Corporate EVENT magazine. As an incentive, survey participants were offered an executive summary of the results, and a chance to win one of three $100 cash prizes. A total of 383 recipients completed the survey, for a total response rate of 4.8 percent.
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