New PQ Media/uberVU Research shows that social network ad spending grew 42.1 percent in 2012, to $7.94 billion. Beverage and technology brands dominated global social media conversations last year, with Starbucks and Burger King leading the restaurant category in generating the highest share of voice.

According to the PQ Media/uberVU Top 100 Brands in Social Media Worldwide 2013, the world's top 100 brands generated 56.7 million online and mobile social media mentions from July to December 2012, while global social media impressions totaled 83.59 billion in that period.

Although women spend more time on social media, men initiate more conversations about the top 100 brands, accounting for 55 percent, according to the report. Brands with strong worldwide appeal generated more online and mobile conversations, with 57 percent of conversations starting outside the U.S.

Only three product categories over-indexed the broader social media average score of 100, according to the PQ Media/uberVU Social Category Development Index. Restaurants led with a score of 338, followed by Beverages (223) and Consumer Technology (178).

Restaurants dominated social media SOV with a 33.4 percent share, as the top three brands generated at least 2.3 million mentions each (Starbucks 2.4M, Burger King 2.3M, McDonalds 2.3M); followed by Beverages with 23.2 percent (Coke 5.2M, Gatorade 2.7M, Sprite 2.4M); and Technology with 17.2 percent (Apple 2.5M, Google 2.5M, Samsung 1.7M).

Three of the top 10 categories – Restaurants, Beverages, and Consumer Technology – generated more than 70 percent of social media share of voice (SOV). Seven of the top-10 brand categories generated more mentions from males, such as Automobiles, while only three categories were dominated by females, including Personal Care.

Two CPG categories that account for significant ad spending – Personal Care and Household Products – combined for less than 7 percent of social media conversations, indicating that brands with large ad budgets, such as Procter & Gamble, don't necessarily control social media conversations.

Global social media ad spending grew at an accelerated double-digit rate in 2012 to reach almost $8 billion, driven by increased traffic and time spent on social media by young consumers.

Global social media spending is expected to rise nearly 40 percent in 2013, as brands and agencies seek stronger metrics to justify shifting ad budgets to social media.

"The lack of standard metrics is a growth challenge for all emerging media," said PQ Media CEO Patrick Quinn. "While there isn't a definitive metric for social media yet, brands need a way to track progress. One key measure is the growth of social media presence over time."

For example, more consumers joined social media conversations throughout the studied time period, as impressions per mention jumped each month, reaching 1,646 in December, up 35 percent from July, according to the PQ Media/uberVU report.

Read more about social media trends.

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