A new survey [pdf] commissioned by workplace solutions provider Regus revealed that 40% of businesses globally have successfully leveraged social media tools for business development. For US companies, that figure is 35%, below the level of many nations with significantly smaller overall economies and placing it 9th overall.
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 using social networks. 54% of firms use social networks to find useful business information. Surprisingly, however, only 22% of respondents had found new employment through social networking.
In the US, 28% of businesses have set aside a proportion of marketing budget devoted to social networking activities. 54% of respondents used social networking to keep in touch with contacts, slightly lower than the global average. Notably, 44% of US companies use social networking to join special interest groups, well below the global average of 54%.
Among other findings across the global landscape:
US The US had the smallest proportion of skeptics (27%) who did not believe that business social networking could become a significant prospecting or retention tool.
Mexico 18% more companies than average (54%) use professional social networking to join special interest groups in Mexico.
UK The UK was found to be the country where users were the least impressed by the presence of audio/video animation on the profile of another business user (29%).
France French firms had the highest number of “business social media skeptics,” with 47% of respondents declaring that they did not believe that business social networks would ever become a significant tool for reaching customers and prospects.
South Africa 73% of respondents made personal use of business social networks compared to the 66% global average.
India 67% of companies use professional social networking to source information compared to the 54% global average.
China Although 44% of businesses in China successfully use social networking to find new customers, the country also is home to the second highest proportion of business social networking skeptics (45%).
Japan 8% more respondents than average (20%) had found new employment via social business networking.
Sande Golgart, vice president for Regus, comments, “Our global survey has revealed that social networking has finally become a mainstream business tool. This survey indicates that organizations who have not yet ventured into the world of social networking may be missing out on sizable business opportunities. This is particularly the case in the Netherlands, India, Mexico and Spain, where the highest level of new customer acquisition by way of social networking was reported.”
The survey also analyzed company size differences and found that small companies were slightly more likely to use social networking. However, more large companies (34%) have devoted marketing budget to this activity than small companies (26%.) Additionally, 47% of small businesses use social networks to join special interest groups, compared to 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 average (22%) had found a new job through social networking.