Are You Ready to Tweet?

More and more home-based travel agents are finding that Twitter, Facebook, et. al, are a great way to keep in touch with existing clients while reaching out to new ones. Got a great deal that just landed on your desk? "Tweet" it to your clients—like the old shampoo commercial, they'll tell two friends, then they'll tell two friends and so on. It's viral marketing at its simplest.

If you haven’t started using online tools to market your business, here’s a stat that should interest you: An overwhelming majority (88 percent) of marketers say they are using some form of social media to market their business, though 72 percent of those using it say they have only been at it a few months or less, according to a social media study by Michael Stelzner, sponsored by the upcoming Social Media Success Summit 2009.

The study, reported on, found that Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and Facebook—in that order—are the top four social media tools used by marketers.

When asked if they used social media for marketing purposes, 88 percent said they are employing some form of it. Business owners are more likely to use social media marketing (90-plus percent) than employees working for a company that is not their own (81 percent), and respondents ages 30-39 are most likely to use social media marketing (92.8 percent), the study found. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) say they have either just started or have been using social media for a few months.

The survey found that there is a direct relationship between how long marketers have been using social media and their weekly time commitment. For people just beginning, the median weekly time commitment is two hours per week. For those who have been at it for months, the median jumps to 10 hours per week. For those who report social media marketing use for years, the median is 20-plus hours each week.

Respondents report that the number-one benefit of social media marketing is gaining attention for the business, and 81 percent say their social media efforts have generated exposure for their businesses.

Improving traffic and growing marketing lists is the second major benefit, followed by building new partnerships. At least two in three participants found that increased traffic occurred with as little as six hours a week invested, while those who have been doing this for years reported better results. Owners of small businesses are more likely than others to report benefits.

More than half of participants say a major benefit is the resultant rise in search-engine rankings that often comes with increased efforts.

Though about one in two found social media generated qualified leads, only about one in three said social media marketing helped close business, though this percentage was higher (61.6 percent) among those who had been using social media for longer periods of time.
In terms of reducing overall marketing expenses, a significant percentage of participants strongly agree that  marketing costs dropped when social media marketing was implemented. Sole proprietors were more likely than others to see reductions in marketing costs when using social media marketing.

Key survey findings about specific application use include:

• Small-business owners are more likely to use LinkedIn than employees working for a corporation.
• Men are significantly more likely to use YouTube or other video marketing than women (52.4 percent of all men compared with 31.7 percent of women).
• For those just getting under way with social media marketing, LinkedIn is ranked as their number-two choice, pushing blogging down one notch.
• Among those who have been using social media for a few months, Facebook is in second place. This group also has more Twitter use.
• Twitter is used by 94 percent of marketers who have been using social media for years, followed closely by blogs. This group also endorses online video significantly more so than the other groups.

When marketers were asked which social media tools they most want to learn more about, social bookmarking sites slightly edged out Twitter as the number-one response. A four-way tie for third place occurred between LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Facebook and Digg/Reddit/Mixx.

Key differences among groups include:

• Small-business owners are much more interested in understanding social bookmarking sites than other groups.
• Those over age 40 were much more interested in learning about Twitter than their younger marketing cohorts. This is consistent with other research that shows that younger demographics are less likely to Tweet.
• Those investing 16 or more hours per week are most interested in learning about FriendFeed.
• Those investing less than six hours per week were most interested in learning about Twitter.
• For those just getting under way, understanding Twitter tops the list.
• Understanding Twitter remains important for marketers who’ve been doing social media marketing for a few months. However, social bookmarking sites top the interest list for these professionals.
• The pros who have been working with social media for year are most interested in understanding FriendFeed, StumbleUpon and social bookmarking sites.

The study, “How Marketers are Using Social Media to Grow their Businesses,” was conducted using a combination of social media and e-mail solicitation. It began with a Twitter post, which was then reposted by users onto Facebook and blogs. In addition, an e-mail list of approximately 2,500 marketers was asked to take the survey. After a total of 10 days, the survey closed with 880 respondents. Most people who took the survey were small business owners (70 percent), followed by employees working at a company (26 percent). Most survey participants (78.1 percent) were between the ages 30-59. The gender distribution was 56 percent female and 44 percent male.