In the past few years, social networks have evolved from sites where people keep in touch with close friends to valuable marketing platforms where businesses can communicate with their customers.
These websites are now arguably some of the most important marketing destinations for many businesses on the Web - especially small businesses (SMBs). In fact, a recent study from cloud marketing provider Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing reveals that 87 percent of SMBs say social media has been somewhat helpful or helped a great deal in their marketing efforts.
The "Path to Influence: An Industry Study of SMBs and Social Media" report also found that 36 percent of SMBs spend a median of $845 a month on software tools for social media management. And while many SMBs have added social media to the list of existing duties for marketing employees, 22 percent of the study's respondents use consultants to aid with their social marketing efforts. Additionally, the report shows that social media accounts for more than 25 percent of overall marketing efforts for the majority (77%) of SMBs.
"[The] overall sentiment in this study is right on target and it's a very positive message," said John Jantsch, creator of Duct Tape Marketing. "What I've been noticing more and more is there's finally this acceptance that social media not only isn't going away, [but is also] an essential element of the marketing mix. And the real challenge now is to figure out how to integrate it into the total online and offline marketing presence."
Not suprisingly, 84 percent of the study's respondents claim they plan to invest more time and effort into social media in the near future. However, the social sites they are most interested in are a bit surprising. The study reveals that even though Facebook is currently the king of social networks, it seems as though many SMBs are more interested in emerging social networks. In fact, 14 percent of respondents claim that they plan to invest more effort into Google+ and Instagram, while only 7 percent plan to invest more into Facebook.
Other note-worthy findings show that most companies use social media to share information, while only 46 percent use these sites to handle customer service issues. Additionally, 40 percent of SMBs prefer a smaller, but highly engaged audience, while 27 percent would rather have a huge following with little engagement.
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