More than half of firms that use social media say it has directly benefitted their business, according to a new survey.

The online poll of business professionals carried out by Fresh Business Thinking reveals that firms identify sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as being crucial to developing both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) growth.

LinkedIn emerges as the most popular social media presence, with 83 per cent of respondents possessing an account on the business networking website.

Facebook (79 per cent) and Twitter (70 per cent) follow closely behind. Just one per cent of respondents did not use any social media platform, the survey found.

These different social media channels are used in different ways, with firms utilising the specific benefits of each.

LinkedIn, for example, emerges as the favourite for business-to-business networking and Facebook was perceived as being useful at shaping business-to-customer liaison.

The 'real-time' nature of Twitter makes the microblogging website useful for firms who want to tell potential customers about upcoming events or sudden developments.

Fresh Business Thinking said one development solicitor noted how by tweeting and retweeting elements of his business seminar garnered 100 extra delegates wanting to book in for the next session.

However, the world of social media is not entirely paved with gold.

Four in ten respondents reported no boost to their business as a result of social media, but Jemima Gibbons, author and social media strategist for AAB Engage, said this could be because of a lack of a clear strategy.

“Social media doesn't work like other channels: it's like a dog – not just for Christmas!” she said.

If you want to set up your first social media presence – the benefits are clear – or need to revive a flagging campaign with a better-thought-out plan, why not use promotional items to spread the word.

For B2B, consider equipping your staff with with promotional lanyards that have the address of your social media channel printed on – you could make sure they're on show at conferences.

For B2C, tell consumers all about your Facebook page by popping the address on promotional pencils that you could distribute along with your direct mail campaign.

Social media use directly benefits more than half of businesses“. www.realwire.com. Friday June 24th 2011.

Posted by Robin McCrink