An overwhelming majority (88%) of marketers in a recent survey say they are now using some form of social media to market their business, though 72% of those using it say they have only been at it a few months or less, according to a social media study by Michael Stelzner, sponsored by the upcoming Social Media Success Summit 2009.
The study, which set out to understand how and why marketers are using social media to grow and promote their businesses, found that Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook – in that order – are the top four social media tools used by marketers.
The research also included an analysis of nearly 700 open-ended responses, which revealed the top-three questions marketers are asking about social media:
Results of the study are summarized below.
Growing Use of and Interest in Social Media
The survey began by gauging the depth and breadth of respondents’ use of social media to market their businesses. When asked if they used social media for marketing purposes, the overwhelming majority (88%) indicate they are employing some form of it. In addition, business owners are more likely to use social media marketing (90+%) than employees working for a company that is not their own (81%), and respondents ages 30-39 are most likely to use social media marketing (92.8%), the study found.
When asked to rate their experience level with using social media marketing for their businesses, 72% of marketers say they have either just started or have been using social media for only a few months.
The largest group just getting under way with social media marketing is sole proprietors (30.2% reported just getting started), the survey found. In contrast, owners of businesses with 2-100 employees were the most experienced (29.3% reporting doing social media marketing for years).
Perhaps not surprisingly, people those ages 60-69 were significantly more likely to be just getting started, Stelzner said.
Significant Time Commitment to Social Media Marketing
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of marketers are using social media for five hours or more each week, with 39% using it 10 or more hours weekly and 9.6% spending more than 20 hours each week with social media.
The survey found that there is a direct relationship between how long marketers have been using social media and their weekly time commitment. For people just beginning with social media, the median weekly time commitment is two hours per week. However, for those who have been at it for months, the median jumps to 10 hours per week. For those who report social media marketing use for years, the median is 20+ hours each week.
Specific findings regarding time commitment:
Social Media Marketing Gets Attention
According to the survey, respondents report that the #1 benefit of social media marketing is gaining attention for the business, or what Stelzner calls “the all-important eyeball.” The majority of marketers say they have undertaken social media activities for this reason and they appear to be paying off: Some 81% of all marketers indicate that their social media efforts have generated exposure for their businesses.
Improving traffic and growing marketing lists is the second major benefit, according to the study, followed by building new partnerships. At least two in three participants found that increased traffic occurred with as little as 6 hours a week invested in social media marketing, while those who have been doing this for years reported better results. Owners of small businesses (2 – 100 employees) are more likely than others to report benefits.
The study also found more than half of participants reported that a major benefit of social media marketing is the resultant rise in search engine rankings that often comes with increased efforts. Improved search engine rankings were most prevalent among those who’ve been using social media for years, with nearly 80% reporting a rise.
Though about one in two found social media generated qualified leads, only about one in three said social media marketing helped close business, though this percentage was higher (61.6%) among those who had been using social media for longer periods of time.
In terms of reducing overall marketing expenses, a significant percentage of participants strongly agree that marketing costs dropped when social media marketing was implemented. Sole proprietors were more likely than others to see reductions in marketing costs when using social media marketing.
Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook – In that Order
By a wide margin, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook are the top four social media tools used by marketers, with Twitter in first place.
Key survey findings about specific application use:
Time Commitment to Social Media
The study found that those putting in the least time into social media are using different applications vs. those investing the least time. Notably, a significant 61% of those investing 20+ hours per week are using social bookmarking sites. Nearly all (99%) use Twitter and 89% use blogs.
Want to Learn: Social Bookmarking and Twitter
When marketers were asked which social media tools they most want to learn more about, social bookmarking sites slightly edged out Twitter as the #1 response. A four-way tie for third place occurred between LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Facebook and Digg/Reddit/Mixx.
Key differences among groups:
About the survey: The study, “How Marketers are Using Social Media to Grow their Businesses,” (pdf) was conducted using a combination of social media and email solicitation. It began with a Twitter post which was then re-posted by users onto Facebook and blogs. In addition, an email list of approximately 2,500 marketers was asked to take the survey. After a total of ten days, the survey closed with 880 respondents. Most people who took the survey were small business owners (70%), followed by employees working at a company (26%). Most survey participants (78.1%) were between the ages 30-59. The gender distribution was 56% female and 44% male.
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