Eight years ago when EXHIBITOR issued its first Social Media Marketing Survey, Facebook boasted 608 million users who interacted with the site on at least a monthly basis. Today that number
has tripled, with monthly users topping more than 2 billion. The percentage of companies using social media as an exhibit-marketing implement has tripled as well, from 30 percent in 2010 to 91 percent in 2018. But the rapid-fire adoption rate begs the question: Is social media really a valuable brand-building tool, or has its popularity simply created a critical mass of corporate users that makes not having a Twitter account and a Pinterest page a potential liability?
According to the results of our 2018 Social Media Marketing Survey, which is the fifth in a series of research efforts aimed at determining how exhibit and event marketers are utilizing social media, the momentum behind the medium continues to grow. In 2010, EXHIBITOR surveyed 400 marketers to obtain benchmark data on everything from which social-media sites were proving the most popular for marketing purposes to what corporate objectives, if any, social media was helping companies to achieve. Since then, EXHIBITOR has surveyed nearly 1,000 exhibiting companies and charted the data against that 2010 baseline.
Our most recent research paints a pretty clear picture: The use of social media as a marketing tool has exploded over the past eight years. What's more, the majority of this year's respondents not only have dedicated social-media managers and/or departments to assist them in strategizing, executing, and measuring social-media campaigns, but also incorporate paid features to amplify their messages on platforms ranging from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Instagram. That's a stark contrast to 2010, when social media was perceived as an entirely free marketing medium, and roughly 85 percent of corporate social-media campaigns were conceived of and executed by general marketing teams without the aid of dedicated social-media subject-matter experts.
More than nine out of 10 marketers say their companies are currently using social media for a variety of purposes, including exhibit marketing (91 percent), event marketing (58 percent), and other general marketing efforts (95 percent). And while the majority of them are turning to mega-popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, other sites are gaining momentum and, not surprisingly, interest among marketers. For example, while only 5 percent of exhibitors were promoting their exhibits on Instagram in 2014, that number has grown to 37 percent today.
Those who are tapping into the marketing potential of social-media activity claim increased brand awareness, enriched relationships with clients and prospects, increased booth traffic and event attendance, additional press coverage, and even increased sales as direct results of their campaigns. Having said that, only one-third of marketers proactively set measurable objectives to gauge their social-media efforts, and just a slight majority (57 percent) track any metrics to prove the success or failure of their social-media campaigns. E