Worldwide social media revenue is set to reach US$16.9 billion in 2012, up from 2011 revenue of US$11.8 billion, and is expected to rise to US$34 billion by 2016, according to a July 2012 report by industry analysts, Gartner. Advertising is the largest contributor to this revenue, generating a projected US$8.8 billion this year alone - over half of the total.
Given Gartner's projections, it is clear that marketers firmly believe in the potential of social media as a highly effective new channel to reach their customers and prospects. Unlike other channels, social media provides access to consumers' personal sphere, circumventing well-honed marketing defence mechanisms and opening up an ongoing, personalised dialogue with them.
But do consumers' attitudes and responsiveness to social media marketing match marketers' sizeable investment in, and high expectations of, these channels?
This was the core question of an independent study by Vanson Bourne, based on an online survey of 3,000 adult consumers and 300 senior marketing decision-makers across five international markets (Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the USA) and seven economic sectors (fast-moving consumer goods [FMCG], insurance, the public sector, retail, retail banking, telecoms and utilities).
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