Joe Meloni

In its latest report, State of Social Media Marketing: Top Areas for Social Marketing Investment and Biggest Social Marketing Challenges in 2012, Awareness found that both social media and content marketing are top priorities among businesses this year.

Seventy percent of marketers say social is their top priority for 2012, closely followed by content marketing (cited by 59 percent). Moreover, 64 percent of respondents will expand their investment in the realm of social content to amplify their brands’ reach.

While more than 70 percent of of marketers who are investing more in expanding their social reach refer to themselves as “novices” or “dabblers,” the significance of social and content has provided the motivation for many to improve their capabilities. Pairing the channels has allowed businesses to build interaction opportunities on their web pages via social sharing buttons and provided ready-made fuel for social marketing initiatives in the form of shared site content.

Many marketers who participated in the study are already relying on the major social players, namely Facebook and Twitter, but they plan to expand their focus to include YouTube, foursquare and Tumblr, among others, in 2012. Emergence into new social spaces is largely driven by a desire to replenish their sales pipelines more consistently.

“Companies experienced in social marketing are moving beyond growing social presence and reach,” Brian Zanghi, CEO of Awareness, said in a release. “They are shifting to active social media management for increased lead generation and sales. We expect less-experienced marketers to follow their visionary peers, adopting established practices as they move along the maturity continuum.”

Staffing is still an area of much conjecture, according to Awareness. The report found that most businesses employ one to three people to monitor their social media marketing campaigns.

Those looking for the right talent to fill these roles are not alone. Brafton recently reported that 18 percent of marketers will make hires in the first quarter of 2012. Moreover, 45 percent said they struggle to find qualified manpower to manage new media marketing campaigns of most kinds.