Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Chief marketing officers are starting to get excited about a potential economic recovery. Good. After all, if the CMO isn’t optimistic about sales, who can be?

Retail sales, unemployment and so much other data have raised doubts about just when the recession might end. But 59 percent of the marketing executives by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business are optimistic about the economy compared to the last quarter.

“These results indicate that marketers believe the tide had begun to turn,” said Duke Professor Christine Moorman, who conducted the survey along with the American Marketing Association. “However, they are clearly aware that the recession has caused customers to become more price sensitive and companies are wisely keeping that in mind as they make product and marketing decisions.”

Chief financial officers in recent Duke and UNC-CH surveys remain in a funk, but let’s face facts – a key part of a CFO’s job is to be in a funk, right? Chief funk officer – i.e., cautious, counting pennies. That’s not a criticism. Just an observation.

The CMOs are supposed to be generating excitement, coming up with ways to sell products. They strive to make the CEO, CFO, CIO and all the other c-level suite occupants smile as the execs convince the often dourest of all (the Board) to support more R&D, hiring and prepping for growth, not just maintaining survival mode.

And a key part of making sales going forward will be capitalizing on the opportunities created through social media, the CMOs report.

Let’s face facts. This devil-bad recession has changed how just about every one of us views the economy. We’re more cautious. Most of us have less disposable income. Our savings have shrunk. We’re scared about our jobs. It’s no wonder people are spending less, even on video games which plunged in July for the fifth consecutive month.

Social media is changing the way news is delivered; it’s changing marketing, too, the CMOs say.

Word of mouth via the net – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn just to name three – provide ways to enhance or kill products.

Some key findings as provided by Duke in summarizing the survey:

• “Marketers continue to report a shift in spending away from traditional advertising (with a planned overall decrease of 8 percent) and toward Internet marketing, where they expect to increase investments by 10 percent.

• “They report plans to increase spending on social media efforts by more than 300 percent in the next five years, increasing their marketing budget allocations for social media from 3.5 percent to 13.7 percent over the next five years.

• “Social networking (65 percent), video and photosharing (52 percent) and blogging (50 percent) dominated firms’ social media patterns.

• “Survey respondents report the five most frequently reported uses for social media tactics are brand building, customer acquisition, new product introductions, customer retention and market research.”

Yes, the world has changed because of the recession. Look at the grief caused by shifts in advertising already at newspapers and other media outlets. The CMOs see more changes ahead.

And where they are seeing opportunity, you can bet the C-suite folks are listening. They want to get out of the funk, especially the CFOs.

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