Small businesses and the self-employed are most likely to close new business deals and find partnerships thanks to their efforts on Facebook, Twitter, et al.
Read it and tweet: Social media takes a lot of time, but it pays off, says a report released today.
Ninety percent of marketers surveyed say that social media is important for their business, with the self employed and small business owners with two or more employees "more likely to strongly agree," says the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report, which surveyed some 3,300 marketers.
The No. 1 payoff: Generating more business exposure, say nearly 9 in 10 marketers. Increased traffic (72 percent) and improved search rankings (62 percent) were also top on the list. Improved sales was last on the list of seven benefits, with 43 percent of those surveyed enjoying success—but it was the self-employed and small business owners with two or more employees who were most likely to report that social media helped them close new business. The self-employed and small businesses also were most likely to find business partnerships through social media, with at least 59 percent reporting that benefit.
As almost anyone who's ever updated a status (and then clicked around for another hour) can attest, social media is time-consuming. More than half (58 percent) of respondents are using social media for more than six hours per week, and about one-third (34 percent) invest 11 or more hours weekly. Fifteen percent spend more than 20 hours a week blogging, tweeting, and the like. The more experience respondents had with social media, the more time they spent: 63 percent of people with three or more years experience spend more than 10 hours a week on social media. Just 41 percent of those with one to three years experience spend that much time. For the record, about half of those surveyed have less than a year's experience with social media marketing.
Wondering if you can (or should) hire someone to do this sort of marketing for you? Just 28 percent of businesses are outsourcing some portion of their social media marketing, says the survey.
Where, exactly, are efforts being spent? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs were the top four social media tools. Facebook overtook Twitter to take the top spot in the study this year (in 2010 it was Twitter). But some three-quarters (77 percent) of marketers plan to increase their use of YouTube and video marketing this year—a virtual gold rush.
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.