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ew things have swept the globe as swiftly as the social-media craze. In fact, 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. What's more, the popular social-media site scored a 513-percent growth rate among members 55 and older during that same period.

With millions of Americans flocking to Facebook and other social-networking sites, face-to-face marketers are watching and wondering what it all means. Sure, a handful of companies have jumped on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, bound for a future of tweets and Webcasts, but many others are cautiously dipping their toes in the virtual water, or standing on the sidelines waiting to see if social media is a here-today-gone-tomorrow trend, a popular hobby with little impact on trade shows and events, or a technological evolution with the potential to forever alter the marketing landscape as we know it.

To discover how exhibit and event marketers are using 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 survey, 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 or tools for marketing purposes, including exhibit- and event-marketing campaigns. And while the majority of them are turning to social-networking Web sites such as Facebook, 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.

Those who are tapping into the marketing potential of social-media applications claim increased brand awareness, enriched relationships with clients and prospects, additional press coverage, increased event attendance, increased booth traffic, and even increased sales as direct results of their campaigns.

But the so-called "free" services offered via social-media sites come with their own fixed costs, as nearly a third of respondents using social media report spending six or more hours per week strategizing, executing, and monitoring their company's social-media presence. And nearly 10 percent of respondents dedicate 21 hours or more, per week, to their social-media campaigns.

That 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 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.

The following statistics and analysis represent some of the highlights culled from the 2010 Social Media in Marketing Survey, along with anonymous quotes from respondents regarding their personal opinions on social media in marketing. For more information on the survey results and methodology, visit www.ExhibitorWebLinks.com.



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