Guest Post by Researcher James McDavid:

In my new report, "Western European Social Media Marketing Forecast, 2012 To 2017," I'm exploring some of the drivers and inhibitors that will impact social media marketing spending in Europe over the next 5 years. From growing adoption amongst consumers and ever more devices integrating with social networks, to the uncertainty ushered in by the coming European data privacy legislation, I'll look at how these factors will influence the willingness of marketers to spend on social media marketing. 

The good news is despite the economic headwinds across Europe, spending on social media marketing is still forecast to rise ― from €1.4 billion in 2012 to reach €3.2 billion in 2017, reflecting a 17.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). As social media marketing in Europe heads towards maturity, the pace of growth slows somewhat but the trend continues upwards. We're also forecasting the percentage of online users who are present on social networks in Europe to continue to rise, from 63% in 2013 to more than 70% by 2017, so if you thought social had already reached a point of saturation, think again. 

Another factor driving growth in marketer spending and consumer adoption is the increasing number of devices able to integrate with social networks. From smartphones and tablets today, to the dawn of the Internet of Things, we feel that these trends will broaden the scope of social media marketing for European marketers. We're already seeing 41% of EU-7 consumers with smartphones use those devices to access social networks on a daily basis, and as Facebook, Twitter and the other social networks improve their mobile advertising offering there's going to be more opportunity for marketers to reach consumers on these devices. 

It's not all straightforward growth and good news though, and this being the European forecast I'm sure you weren't expecting it to be so. Towards the end of the forecast period, we're expecting the European Union to implement the revised Data Protection Act and the effect of this on the social media spending forecast could be as much as €401.9 million in 2016, and €481.7 million in 2017.

From the growing suite of Personal Identity Management (PIDM) tools that allow consumers to better manage and interrogate their personal data, to Wolfram Alpha's 'Personal Analytics', preparing to operate in the age of tighter control, understanding and regulation of personal data is now a business imperative. We know that the legislation will have an effect on all marketers targeting European consumers, and across all aspects of their digital marketing efforts. We're not yet at the stage of making country-by-country and industry-by-industry recommendations on how to prepare for the legislation, as it's exact implementation is as yet unclear, the report does give European marketers guidance on how to ensure that they've got their social media marketing in the best position to be ready for the legislation. 

For all the detail and specific recommendations be sure to read the report, which is accessible to Forrester clients here, and if you've any questions please get in touch with me via email ( or twitter (@james_mcdavid). 

For more social media marketing best practices and advice on how to engage with connected consumers in Europe, come to Forrester's Marketing Leadership Forum EMEA in London on May 21-22.