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Firstly, increased investment signals, for me, evidence of a much clearer level of understanding – by those that hold the purse strings – of social media’s role in the overall marketing mix. Marketing budgets remain tight, so any areas experiencing an increase are clearly receiving support from key decision makers. The growing level of focus on social media across the industry (try finding a report that doesn’t mention it) has helped to push it higher up the marketing agenda, given it more airtime in senior leadership meetings, and thus a greater share of the budget.

One lens on this of course is that there’s an element of “keeping up with the Jones’”, as brands see each other doing more – try booking a Facebook advertising reaching-block for Christmas in September…  you’ll be lucky to find a slot. Brands want to be seen as innovative and willing to try new things, which is perfectly mirrored by the increasing range of ad formats offered by social networks. Instagram is a good example – a few weeks ago paid ads simply weren’t an option for brands… suddenly it’s another consideration for their mix, another area not to get left behind in.

Thirdly, and most basically, social media has continued to evolve in being, quite simply, a great way to get your message in front of a lot of people very quickly, in a highly targeted way. The improved ability to target and measure activity makes it easier for the numbers to do the talking, and for marketeers to justify their decision to push more of their paid-media investment into social versus, for example, classic online display.

I’m thrilled to see a growing level of investment in this area, but I still have a big question – is the investment being allocated correctly? Paid social, which I’ve referenced a number of times here, is just one (important) part of the puzzle in using social media effectively. But failing to invest in the right support network of people, process and technology (e.g. social media monitoring, customer service) and you may wish you’d spent your budget elsewhere.

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