social media researchThere are some interesting studies surfacing lately in the world of social media.  Here’s a summary of three recent research findings covering the benefits of social media marketing, how forums help brands and how businesses are employing social media marketing.

#1: 50% of Small Businesses Say Lead Generation is Biggest Benefit of Social Networking

According to the “Small Business Marketing Forecast 2010” from Ad-ology, lead generation is the biggest benefit of social networking for U.S. small businesses.

Here’s the breakdown of respondents’ top benefits of social networking:

  • 50%: Generating leads
  • 45%: Keeping up with the industry
  • 44%: Monitoring online conversation
  • 38%: Finding vendors/suppliers
social media chart

This chart shows the level at which the respondents found each social networking benefit useful.

Here’s a surprising statistic: While 67% agreed that social media is a good way to increase business, 39% of those surveyed said they did not plan to use social networking in their marketing plan in 2010.  This number is likely tied to the finding that 31% reported that their customers do not use social media, 29% stated they do not have enough time to devote to it and 21% said they do not know enough about social media.

Although more businesses are beginning to adopt social media strategies into their overall marketing plans, this report suggests businesses still have a long way to go before social media is fully integrated into marketing efforts.

#2: Online Forum Users Are Enthusiastic Brand Advocates

According to a recent survey published by PostRelease, people who actively contribute to online forums are overwhelmingly more engaged in “influential” activities – both online and offline – than people who don’t use forums.

What’s most interesting about these findings is that a forum contributor’s influence far extends past the walls of the forum.  Here are some statistics:

  • 79.2% of forum contributors help a friend or family member make a decision about a product purchase – compared with 47.6% of non-contributors and 53.8% overall.
  • 65% of forum contributors share advice (offline and in person) based on information that they’ve read online – compared with 35% of non-contributors and 40.8% overall.
  • 57.7% of forum contributors proactively recommend someone make a particular purchase – compared with 16.9% of non-contributors and 24.9% overall.

There’s also an interesting correlation between forum users and blogging.  The study found that those who contribute to online forums are 10 times more likely than non-contributors to also publish a blog, and are 9 times more likely to take an active role in organizing an offline event or meeting for a group that originally met online.

For marketers who are looking to connect with the key influencers in their niche, the findings suggest that online forums are a smart place to start; however, marketers should proceed with caution. Justin Choi, founder and president of PostRelease, writes, “Online forums are great places to find enthusiastic consumers and influential brand advocates. The people in forums are often discussing specific products, sharing advice and asking each other for recommendations.  For marketers, participating in that discussion is not quite as simple as jumping into a forum conversation – forums have rules about that.  But there are tools for connecting in a way that’s transparent and relevant.

social media chart

Here's a snapshot of the behaviors and habits of people who contribute to forums versus the non-contributors.

#3:  Only 47% of Companies Experimenting With Social Media

A study by Gartner predicts that by the end of 2010, more than 60% of Fortune 1000 companies will manage an online community.  However, another study by ComBlu brings Gartner’s findings into question.

ComBlu’s study, The State of Online Branded Communities, shows how most companies do not understand how to engage within online communities and have no real idea of what their customers want on these sites.  Furthermore, most companies are unaware that people interact on these sites in different ways, so many companies are merely pushing data with little or no interaction.

The report reveals that when companies do get people to join their communities, their lack of engagement is extremely obvious to the sophisticated user.

“Instead of engaging the visitor, the brand drives them away because they offer little of value. Consumers today are sophisticated users of social tools and seek out communities to learn, share and interact. If these elements are missing, or there is no obvious organizing structure that fulfills specific needs, the ‘faux’ community will be quickly abandoned,” stated the report.

Here are some interesting findings related to brands and their online community activity (or lack thereof):

  • 47% of brands are still in the experimental phase, meaning they “exhibit lots of social activity with little connection or integration with each other.”
  • 24% are community ghost towns, meaning there is no engagement and very few members with no return visitors.
  • 20% show a cohesive strategy and typically had robust engagement tools and multiple activities with an active participation from their community.
  • 9% show community overload with multiple messages to the same audience, most likely causing confusion and diluting the message.

Perhaps even more important, the study points out that some of the most effective online community best practices were used the least.  Of the 135 communities they examined, only:

  • 44 have a community manager. A community manager acts as the face of the community. Without one, there is no cohesive bond between the community sponsors and its members.
  • 44 allow social networking. This practice allows community members to connect with each other and find shared interests, thus promoting further connection.
  • 35 offer social bookmarking. This best practice gives community members a tool to personalize and aggregate their online experience at the brand’s destination site.

What do you think about these study findings? As always, we want to hear from you. Have you had similar results that support the data above or does your social media experience contradict the findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

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  • Unfortunately, some businesses/organizations are a little slow in truly realizing the value of social media marketing. There’s definitely a learning curve there that I think some are afraid to commit to but this blog post helps to show that it could be worth it. There are brand advocates and people out there ready and willing to learn, interact, and engage with a company or brand and whoever is there to provide that to them first I think will perform best in the long-run. I am just now figuring out the best way to position my company’s presence in social media and it’s true that creating a genuine and engaging community is one of the best practices! It’s all a process that you learn as you go.

  • As social media tools are integrated with traditional media, Fortune 1000 companies will have a better understanding of how to incorporate social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy. Education must focus on the best practices that optimize results – that’s what companies want regardless of the marketing strategy they employ.

  • Those are powerful statistics. Only 47% of businesses experimenting with social media. I would presume that there is a lack of understanding on how to benefit from social media. Paul Dunay, global managing director-services and social marketing at Avaya says: “2010 is the year social media leaves the marketing group. If you have someone who really knows the social media landscape, they can galvanize the company around the customer.” I believe there are many organizations that could benefit from a boost from proper social media integration.

  • It is really interessting to get a look at the statistics concerning small businesses in the US. I am wondering how the industry in Europe is judging the added value of social media activities. Speaking from my own experience many businesspeople are not familar with the tools, they are afraid of wasting their time and it is hard to convince them to look over and above the old type of marketing.

  • arkinandco

    As a sole practitioner recruiter, I am anxious to use social networking but am very confused as to really use to use it both to gain lead for positions to work on and also to find candidates.

  • Interesting set of survey findings!
    Some of the apparent contradictions in the findings suggest the continuing need to be cautious with generalizations regarding the true marketing role of social media networking — at this point in time. Individual preferences are still evolving and results are yet to attain the status of “universal” trends. As a solo gig, I’m completely sold on the marketing and professional benefits of blogging. I’m getting encouraging links with Twitter, but I’m stayng away from Facebook.

  • Nice informative post. Social media has really been powerful. There are many people who have been using it, might be a celebrity, a businessman a politician or even an ordinary person. It has already made a mark on every individual.

  • Viswanath12

    May be the graph showing the downfall but social media marketing ensures business owners create awareness of the product to the wide range and more target audiences its shows where to start marketing

  • Roger

    Frankly I’m surprised that the report shows 20% have a strategy. Most of the conversations I’ve had with clients or business owners using SM show that their “strategy” is to use SM. They have no plan, target segmentation or tracking action. I would certainly agree with the ghost town figures. The 9% in an overload phase actually seems low.

  • I understand so well that many companies have a will to do social media, but they don’t have a strategy. Businesses/organizations have sales people who make their income making deals, not chatting on the web, whereas a communication officer has most likely a very formal approach that prevents him from engaging in the bolts and nuts of social media.

    What social media needs is proof of sales. What increase in cash flow will I get from going to facebook? Many people wants facts…

  • Bev

    Per the report on characteristics of people who participate in online forums, please give me an example of some of the more popular forums or an example of such.

  • roger

    http://bg/sg/fandom link did not work

  • Brenna-you have the right idea for sure. It is tough that so many companies still do not see the value of social media marketing. But from all that I have read in the last few months, more and more companies are getting on board. I think the focus will soon turn toward how to really engage, vs. just blast, on these platforms. For companies just entering this space, that concept is sometimes hard to grasp. Thanks for stopping by!

  • So true! I think that is why the case studies that are we seeing more and more of are extremely helpful to the new companies that are just ramping up with their social media activity.

  • I agree. “Integrations” is the proper word here. Some companies seem to think it has to be all or nothing with social media marketing and the overwhelm of that thought paralyzes them. But they jump into this space ill-prepared with no real strategy. That is so dangerous for a brand. But when properly integrated with an existing marketing plan, the success rate is so much higher. As social media matures and we see even more case studies that reflect best practices, the landscape will change. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rachel–why are you staying away from Facebook? My personal belief is that Fan Pages are a much better way to engage and create community vs. Twitter. I am curious to hear your thoughts!

  • Roger, I’ve had the same experience as you. When the SM strategy is “use it,” that’s when we see no engagement, little understanding of building community and a lot of broadcasting of data with little conversations. I really think we will see a shift here as more businesses get educated, but the stats do seem a little low in regard to this topic. Thanks for your input!

  • It’s tough because businesses do want the facts on how to monetize–but when companies rush and start thinking “How can I make money on Twitter?” it shows–it is blatantly obvious why they are in the space. I suggest to my clients to get their strategy together and make monetizing the activities at the bottom of the list in the initial stages–because without the solid engagement foundation, it all can fall flat fast.

  • Hi Amy.
    I guess the simple (and honest) answer is time constraint. I have 3 business Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I try to participate in forums of interest. When I first looked into FB there just seemed to be a lot “socializing”, which didn’t quite fit into my business plan. I need to focus on what works with my current marketing strategy. Who knows, I might look at FB again sometime.

  • That’s good to know — the all-in-one platform potential. Anything that works and saves time is certainly desirable!

  • dhirajch

    yup, companies experimenting with social media and expected result is superb….

  • Social media can help you to reach your target audience without too much efforts and resources. If done properly you can get good amount of business lead.

  • Some systematic study may be required to generate some connection between nature of you your business and possible options in social media available.

  • social media has the power to grow your business.

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  • sagerr

    To continue with the “Lead Generation” theme: (Nice blog spot here by the way)

    I don’t know if the rest of you agree but, the obvious difference between a lead generation program and an appointment setting campaign is that a lead generation program stops one step short of setting a qualified appointment. Some clients, involved in a complex sale that requires a vast knowledge of the industry or strong knowledge capital, prefer us to qualify the lead and then hand it over to the client to have an in-depth business discussion and qualify the lead more thoroughly before they actually set a qualified appointment.

    What you have to do is Select Target Campaigns: Some of our clients (Tech Company Lead Generation) request that we focus our cold calling to set qualified appointments on a short list of select targets. The Select Target campaign involves calling multiple times collecting information and escalating the qualification process until we set a qualified appointment. For enterprise targets involving a complex sale we can contact multiple decision makers and influencers to schedule a qualified appointment with each executive. All B2B appointment setting campaigns are customized to meet your needs.

    The Bottom Line. Would sales increase if your salespeople and agents spent more time with qualified prospects and less time trying to find them? Appointment setting isn’t just a necessity – it’s an essential resource to help capture market share, build your business and achieve your revenue goals.

    Here is what we offer, what do you people think in here about this?

    * Decision Maker appointments
    * You receive every email and communication with prospects (audio recordings)
    * (No Shows for you = 0%)
    * We have lists of over 25,000 potential prospects in the U.S.
    * We can use your CRM list if requested
    * Unlike most Lead Gen firms, you can directly call our Bus. Dev. people anytime
    * Your account status is done DAILY by Phone not email like our competition
    * Fast turnaround of your project
    * Cost savings and revenue increase
    * Significant improvement in the quality and productivity of your business

    Honestly, every post that you see on the web describes the next BIG methodology when it comes to B2B Lead Generation. At my company Partner Source, which is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we approach the Lead Generation subject with science, as it is our business.

    You have to have values that you stand by as an organization, Partner Source Values: Our principles define us. We stand for: Qualified appointments, results, performance and quality above all else. Outstanding Client Service is our dedication to responsiveness, consistent and effective communication with no surprises, and always meeting deadlines. Absolute honesty and integrity. Continuous Self-Improvement – the spirit of mastery. Making a difference with each person, every minute, every call, every day. We are dedicated to our client’s total satisfaction.

    Glenn Wright
    Partner Source Minnesota (B2B Lead Generation)

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  • Cay Knight

    I am now starting to research how best to implement a social media strategy to enhance our marketing and communications plan, which is how I came across this article. It’s interesting to see the numbers presented and perhaps my company is aligned with others even though I feel that we are lagging behind. – Cay

  • SuperTech86

    there is also a great deal of people out there that simply don’t want to advertise and or interact on the Internet out in the open and where things are kept for ever.  As a small business owner in IT the last thing I want to do is spend more time on the Internet then I already have to doing research, etc.  There is also a great deal of the blue color sector that does not regularly use the Internet and/or social media websites.  Just about everyone I know that is on the Internet a great deal either works in IT or the FIRE sector of the economy.