It's official: social media works for businesses

The findings? When it comes to customers, the greatest pros of using social media are all marketing related. 63% of those businesses using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et al said it increased the effectiveness of their marketing. One in two said social media had improved customer satisfaction. 45% said it had reduced their marketing costs.

Respondents said the greatest advantages of using social media internally are increasing speed of knowledge (an advantage for 77% of those surveyed) and reducing communications costs (a draw for 60% of respondents). In a nutshell, using social media within your team makes your comms more efficient. A better-connected workforce tends to be able to make decisions more quickly, have a clearer picture of current business, and be more content - as everyone feels in the loop.

What about using social media with partners and suppliers? Those surveyed said the biggest lure was getting information quicker (a draw for 57% of respondents), while reducing communications costs came in second (53%) and increasing satisfaction with suppliers and partners third (45%).

But there is fuel for the sceptics' fire in McKinsey's findings. Because whether being used internally, with customers or with suppliers and partners, the least most-cited impact of using social media was 'increasing revenue'.

So, yes, it's still hard to say definitively that you'll instantly see more cash coming in because you're making the effort to get feedback from customers on Twitter, or refreshing relationships with old contacts on LinkedIn, or finding new clients through Smarta.

But you will, if you start using social media, start seeing better customer engagement, more efficient use of your marketing budget, greater internal communication, increased supplier and partner satisfaction.

Do those elements a more efficient, higher-profiting business make?

We think so. We think they are the very fabric of what makes a smart business smart. The McKinsey report seems to suggest that too: its headline claim, the conclusion of all its research, is that businesses using social media achieve greater market share and higher margins.

We think that's because business isn't just about numbers on a page. Good business, smart business, is also about making customers happy, about using your resources and budgets wisely and efficiently, about ensuring your team are happy. It's about having and maintaining a valuable network of contacts who value you back. And if you're interested in any of that - well, those are the very drivers of business that social media facilitates and improves.

When you understand that, you understand social media, and you get why so many small businesses and start-ups use it every day to build their business and brand - despite what any cynic says about it not providing clear ROI.

Check out our advice guides, features and videos on using social media for business and download our free Twitter for business ebook.

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