Social Media - Now a Mainstream Business Tool
Social networking has become a mainstream business tool. A new global survey commissioned by global workplace solutions provider Regus revealed that 35% of U.S. businesses have successfully used social networks to win new business, reinforcing the impact that social media has had on corporations. However, the U.S. lags slightly behind the global average in this regard, with 40% of businesses globally having successfully leveraged social media tools for business development.
Up to now, relatively little analysis has been available regarding the real use businesses are making of social networking and whether true revenue potential can be generated through this channel. To glean whether businesses globally believe that social networking is ready to take its place among an array of marketing tools, the Regus survey asked business leaders not only whether they had achieved any customer wins using social networking, but also whether they believed the channel was effective enough to be awarded its own portion of marketing budget. Proving the faith businesses have in the social networking medium is seen in the revelation that more than a quarter of businesses worldwide (27%) have set aside a proportion of marketing budget specifically devoted to social networking activities.
Globally, social networks are still used for their original purposes. The most popular use of social networks is staying in touch with business contacts, with 58% of respondents globally declaring they use networks in this way. Joining special interest groups is also popular (54%). Although a number of skeptics (34%) believe social networking will never become a significant method of connecting to customers and prospects, 51% of companies globally organize, connect to or manage customer groups via social networks. Fifty four percent of firms use social networks to find useful business information. Surprisingly, however, only 22% of respondents had found new employment through social networking, in spite of the specific job search functions of networks such as LinkedIn.
In the U.S., 28% of businesses have set aside a proportion of marketing budget devoted to social networking activities. Fifty four percent of respondents used social networking to keep in touch with contacts, which was slightly lower than the global average. Notably, 44% of U.S. companies use social networking to join special interest groups, well below the global average of 54%.The U.S. had the smallest number of social networking skeptics among all the countries globally, with only 27% of respondents feeling that social networking will never become a significant method of connecting to customers and prospects.
Sande Golgart, vice president for Regus, comments, “Our global survey has revealed that social networking has finally become a mainstream business tool. Although there is a core group of skeptics globally, who do not believe that social networks will become a significant method of reaching customers and prospects, a significant proportion of firms are devoting real marketing budgets through the medium to acquire new customers and keep existing ones.
“While the most popular function of these networks remains that of keeping in touch with contacts, businesses are also successfully acquiring new customers, supporting their retention efforts and interacting with customer groups,” Golgart continued. “With 55 % of online Americans registered on Facebook, any reservations towards using social networking for business purposes seem misplaced. This survey indicates that organizations who have not yet ventured into the world of social networking may be missing out on sizeable business opportunities. This is particularly the case in the Netherlands (48%), India (52%), Mexico (50%) and Spain (50%), where the highest level of new customer acquisition via social networking was reported.”
The survey also analyzed company size differences and found that overall, small companies were slightly more likely to use social networking. In the U.S., 38% of small businesses, compared with 27% of large companies, successfully found new customers through social networks. However, more large companies (34%) have devoted marketing budget to this activity than small companies (26%). In addition, 47% of small businesses use social networks to join special interest groups, compared with only 37% of large businesses.
On an industry basis, an above-average number of media and marketing companies (50%) have found new customers through social networking, while companies in the financial services sector fared particularly badly with only 27%. Surprisingly, more respondents in the retail sector were social networking skeptics (36%). Finally, 8% more IT employees than the average (22%) had found a new job via social networking.