Social media’s reputation as a channel which struggles to prove its benefits in monetary terms looks set to continue.

An IAB survey of 180 UK agencies and brands reveals the companies perceived as leaders on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, but labels social media as a “teenager that still has a lot of growing up to do”.

According to the Bureau, the lack of maturity stems from two problems. These are that a third of respondents (33%) fail to believe that it plays an important role in the marketing mix and, perhaps more worryingly, that 50% make no attempt to measure the financial return from their posts. 

The respondents claimed to be focusing on other metrics to prove the value of their activity, such as engagement (55%) and web traffic gained (52%). 

Coming of age

While plenty of brands are deciding against seeing the impact of their social media activity on the bottom line, of the agencies in question, only 18% claimed not to be measuring ROI from their efforts.

Far from put off by having to prove a financial return, 14% of agencies said that ‘budget’ was the most important factor in creating a successful social campaign – the top choice – with engaging content being slightly less important (13%).

ROI measurement may not be the first thing on an advertiser’s mind when they consider the success of their campaigns. Despite this, Alex Kozloff, the IAB’s director of marketing & communications, can only see spend on social growing. 

“In terms of marketing disciplines, it’s still a teenager. However, with agencies expecting social budgets to rise 33% and brands expecting a 21% rise, it could enter adulthood within a couple of years.”

How to do it well

The survey gave an idea of the brands worth aspiring to on social media, judging by votes pledged by its respondents.

Coca-Cola topped a poll which asked the marketers to name three brands “doing social particularly well”. It featured in 20% of the answer sheets, with nearly 100 million likes on Facebook and three million followers on Twitter to its name. 

The rest of the list presented a who’s who of global consumer brands, with Nike (15%), Virgin (12%) and Adidas (8%) making up the top few choices. 

Here are the standings in full: