With all the buzz around the wonders of Web 2.0, the logical question on every CEO's mind is “What can it do for my firm?” Now, there is a bit of research data out that can help answer that question. It comes from a Social Media Marketing and PR Benchmarking Survey from our friends at Marketing Sherpa.

Before I review the key results, however, I want to point out that while the sample size was good (n=1,886), the survey was completed by marketers in a wide variety of industries, not just professional services firms. Also, the survey addressed social media and PR together, so any differences between the two disciplines may be obscured. Having said that, here are the results.

Social media/PR is best at 1) influencing brand reputation, 2) increasing brand awareness, 3) improving search engine rankings and 4) increasing website traffic. All in all, not a bad set of benefits. On the other hand, the social media/PR combo is rated far less favorably by survey respondents when it comes to 1) lead generation, 2) improving internal communications or 3) increasing online sales.

Because most professional services firms don't count on social media or PR to improve internal communications — and online sales typically are not much of a factor — that leaves us to cry in our beer over lead generation. The sad fact is that a lot of firms jump into social media with visions of fresh prospects dancing in their heads. Sorry. Improving your brand through improved awareness and reputation is realistic. Lead generation, not so much.