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While social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn have become recognized as essential digital marketing channels in 2010, a survey conducted at the digital marketing conference ad:Tech by EPiServer, a provider of platforms that drive online engagement, reveals that in 2010 nearly 60 percent of the respondents realized the highest return on investment (ROI) from email and the company Web site, and those same channels top the list for future investment among 46 percent of those responding.

The survey further asked about the involvement of the IT department in marketing technology purchasing decisions. Despite the era of cloud computing and the ease of technology procurement, 54 percent of the respondents revealed that the IT department is involved “very frequently” or “frequently” in technology purchase decisions. The survey was conducted at ad:Tech 2010 among CEOs, vice presidents, directors and digital marketing managers of more than 65 attending organizations including large corporations, small to medium-size business (SMBs) and marketing and digital agencies.

“The survey results clearly illustrate what many in the marketing world already suspect, that while marketers are experimenting with social media, they are also struggling with the practicality and ROI of these channels and driving the bulk of investment to the more ‘traditional’ digital channels,” said Bob Egner, vice president of global marketing at EPiServer. “The reality is that as marketers we’re still early in our understanding of how to best use social channels such as Facebook and Twitter and that clearly more work needs to be done to effectively connect social and mobile marketing to lead generation and revenue growth.”

Egner said in 2011, he expects to see more detailed analytics related to social behavior and sentiment that is closely coordinated and synchronized with the other online marketing metrics. “In order to drive greater investment by marketers in the social channels, we also encourage digital agencies to take an integral role in bridging the gap between marketers and technologists to drive greater understanding of social media, and to paint a clearer roadmap to conversion and ROI,” he said.

While marketing executives may be voicing their hesitation, a recent report from by IT research firm AMI-Partners suggests small businesses are migrating in droves toward social networking. In the study, “2010 U.S. Small Business Marketing Activity and Spending Study: Where and How U.S. Small Businesses Are Spending Marketing Dollars,” marketing program decisions are largely driven by business decision makers, such as owners, who are also responsible for managing many other aspects of their businesses.

The report noted that this responsibility limits the amount of time they can devote to exploring and engaging social media. Consequently, a majority of U.S. small business (SB) marketing activities is likely to be on an automatic renewal cycle, benefiting traditional vehicles such as printed telephone directories, AMI analysts concluded. The firm predicted that the effects of the recent economic downturn would lead to an acceleration of U.S. SB social media marketing adoption in the near term.