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SXSW 2011: Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social: Is It Working?


Panel #1 at SXSW 2011: Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social: Is It Working? Important stuff, right? …So much so that it meant I got to enjoy my first ever SXSW panel seated on the floor behind the stage, huddled in with about 15 other interested SXSWers who found out that being 30 minutes early doesn’t always guarantee you a chair. Easy to make new friends when you’ve got the icebreaker, “Yeah, I can’t feel my legs either…”

A unique angle at the SXSW Social Media Panel

But regardless of the fact that we were hearing the message from the backs of heads, the theme was still clear. The answer to Marketing Budgets Have Gone Social: Is It Working, is not a very clear one.

The panelists represented huge companies like PepsiCo, General Mills, Hershey and Samsung. They admitted that gleaning clear ROI stats from social media is still something we’re all trying to figure out. But, it’s also clear that the piece of the pie in marketing budgets for social marketing has grown, and that this is a necessary growth if companies want to communicate and engage consumers in the way they want to be communicated with and engaged.

Though it’s hard for three knowledgeable panelists to make wholly cohesive arguments in only an hour, there were some interesting stats and anecdotes thrown out:

Rough Stats

According to the panelists (Julie Hamp of PepisCo, Kris Narayanan of Samsung, David Witt of Hershey (formally General Mills))…

- eMarketer says that in 2011, social budgets are expected to grow 60%

- General Mills social budget is about 5% of the marketing budget for all their brands

- Across PepsiCo’s 500 worldwide brands, social budgets run from 10% of the marketing budget to 100% (on big campaigns like Pepsi Refresh). On average, the social budget piece of the pie has increased 30% recently

Mini Case Studies

- Sales soar using a POS social promotion

- A promotion linking Foursquare, Hess convenient stores and Brisk, in which users were encouraged to check in with Foursquare at Hess locations and be rewarded with a BOGO deal on Brisk, resulted in a 200% increase in this social interaction at POS and sales went up 141% during that time.

- Using social media promotions that drive users to purchase

- Promo with Brisk and Instagram, users are asked to submit photos using Instagram and 50 photos will be chosen to be featured on a Brisk can. Did your photo get chosen? Better buy some cans and find out. It did get chosen? Better tell your friends and family so they buy the cans. This word of mouth action and the brand awareness surrounding it will drive people to purchase.

- Use key influencers early on for positive word of mouth in the social realm

- When General Mills Fiber One bar was released, it was advocated for on the Hungry Girl email with the line, Fiber One is better than Snickers. Because the product itself was so good and exceeded expectations of the user, this positive word of mouth from key influencers was huge. General Mills saw online conversation to be the 2nd most important driver of sales here, (only second to the product actually being on the shelves). Though it may not be able to be calculated as direct ROI, there was a strong correlation between online conversation, brand experience and sales for a given product.

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