Social media marketing has grown in importance, not just popularity – there are an estimated 76,000 social media marketing professionals currently in the workforce.

When social media first emerged in the workforce, businesses hired young staff to manage their social media engagement – there were no defined goals, objectives, plans or processes, nor was there any in-depth understanding of the various social networks being used.

Fortunately, as time moved on, so did the profession. Social media has grown to a higher level of professionalism – businesses are integrating it with higher, more in-depth marketing goals. Teams and budgets alike are expanding.

According to a recent Simply Measured report, 65 percent of social media teams have between 1-3 people dedicated specifically to social media.

While 92 percent of marketers surveyed say that social media is important for their business, an alarming 87 percent of marketers don’t know which social media tools are best.

Social media falls under two main business functions – communications and marketing. It is often misunderstood because it is not clearly defined by experts in the field.

Distinct Needs

Social media is a method of communication. To be effective in social media you must, first and foremost, communicate well.

Social media is now considered a legitimate channel in marketing and it has three distinct needs:

  1. A plan
  2. Execution
  3. Measurement

This marketing framework is now being applied to social media – teams are investing in analytics software to enable the planning and measurement processes, and are using sophisticated publishing tools to execute their campaigns. Furthermore, platforms are becoming more robust with the ability to not only execute, but also analyze the activity.

According to a Social Media Examiner report, a significant 66 percent of marketers plan on increasing their use of Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn in the future, and a total of 93 percent of marketers are using Facebook.

It was also reported that 96 percent of businesses market themselves using social media – proving, yet again, that social media is an important tool in marketing.

The evolution of social media marketing is far from complete – it continues to evolve daily with feature updates, new platforms and state-of-the-art technology. The challenge for marketers is to understand the integration of digital marketing and continue to measure results and improve plans.

Identifying social media ROI is a struggle; however, by gaining an understanding of their target audience, competitors, and their own efforts on each social network, social media marketers will continue to prove that their efforts are more valuable than ever.