While the impact of social media like LinkedIn and Facebook is well-known among individuals, especially younger users, an increasing number of business owners are turning to these outlets as serious, even vital, motivators for new growth and sales.
According to a recent survey by a regional association of female business owners, 75% of those surveyed said social media were important to conducting business. The survey also indicated that:
* 64% of respondents use social media as a networking tool.
* 57% employ them in researching potential customers and suppliers.
* 54% consider them important in interaction with their prospects and suppliers.
* 52% use them to market and sell their goods and services.
In addition, owners use social media to direct Internet traffic to a business Web site, to establish brand recognition, as a resource for hiring and human resources, and to simply embrace the innovation these technologies represent. Moreover, owners said they plan to increase this involvement: 83% of those surveyed said that they would be taking greater advantage of social media within the coming year.
In terms of popularity, respondents chose the business-oriented LinkedIn as most useful (77%), followed by Facebook at 52% and Twitter at 37%; Other social-media sites, such as Plaxo and MySpace were also mentioned, but by much smaller percentages. Queries as to which site was most important to their business overall found that 61% favored LinkedIn, with 22% preferring Facebook.
Debbie Hurst, president of Women's Business Council-Southwest, the Texas-based association surveyed, said the phenomenon of “social media has obviously made its mark among women-owned businesses. Our survey shows that for our member businesses, Internet usage has evolved way beyond e-mail and online sales. The various social media have become a vital lifeline to current and potential clients, customers, suppliers and partners.
Other business owners reported that they have successfully used social media to keep in touch with their customers and business partners, even noting projects that arose purely out of social-media contacts.