Mashable recently discussed a Forrester report that forecasts an increase in budgets on social media to “grow at an annual rate of 34 percent – faster than any other form of online marketing and double the average growth rate of 17 percent for all online mediums.”
The report does not dive into what the money will be spent on or if the investment will be used to talk AT the conversation, IN the conversation or both.
Talking at the conversation is essentially a media buy, which is aimed at social media channels like Federated Media or social ads in Facebook). In this case, budgets would probably be spent on CPM, creative and CPC in some cases.
Talking in the conversation requires people. Hiring community managers, training them properly and empowering them to engage online is where the substantial investment would go. In my opinion, talking IN the conversation exemplifies the true essence of social media. I feel it is very important for any company to communicate directly to their customers or clients.
Talking at the conversation should not be discounted though. Buying media in Facebook that will drive traffic to a Fan Page where community managers are ready and waiting to engage would be ideal.