Small and midsize businesses play an important role in our economy. Every day, they fight for our attention while also trying to gain any leverage they can over the big box retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and more. There’s no doubt that social media is playing a crucial role in this battle. However, just how successful is it?

LinkedIn has published a new study called Priming the Economic Engine that shines some light on SMB usage of social media. Its findings present an optimistic outlook for 2014, with a renewed focus on marketing. And while that’s great, there were three additional key discoveries LinkedIn found about social media adoption:

  • While social media is used for marketing, SMBs are also learning from it.
  • Social media helps companies find new customers, especially the hyper growth SMBs.
  • There’s an opportunity for financial companies to connect with SMBs on social media — and they’re mostly receptive on LinkedIn.

Social media teaches

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Researchers from the professional social networking company surveyed 998 SMBs in North America to get their input about social media. 94 percent of respondents said that they used social media primarily for marketing — specifically to maintain a company presence and identity. Other reasons include generating word-of-mouth advertising, delivering content and new information about itself, advertising to promote awareness, and generating new leads.

The study shows that 64 percent of SMBs are looking out for new customers – 61 percent of respondents said that social media helps them accomplish this objective.

However, nearly half of those surveyed said that learning is also possible with social media. SMBs say that they’re able to correspond with their peers to ask questions or get recommendations, find experts in their industry, undergo continuing education, and more.

Social media is good for hyper growth SMBs

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In its study, LinkedIn found that hyper growth SMBs felt social media was helpful in building brand awareness and lead generation. How does one define “hyper growth”? LinkedIn group product marketing manager Lana Khavinson says that these are businesses that reported year-over-year revenue increases.

91 percent of SMBs that fit this description state that social media helped them increase awareness. 82 percent indicated that it helped generate new leads.

Financial services, SMBs, and social media

LinkedIn’s last finding shows that over two-thirds of SMBs are using social media for financial services. This helps them keep up-to-date on current financial trends or institutional news, gather preliminary information about products or companies, seek advice or gather intelligence to help make a sound decision, evaluate their financial decision, and make recommendations for financial products/policies/services to others.

It’s believed that those SMBs who are using social media for discovery and consideration will almost always seek out more information, ask for a consultation, or make a purchase (93 percent) — 37 percent will most likely choose to purchase a product or service.

Of course, this finding is a bit unusual as it’s specifically focused on financial advice for SMBs. However, LinkedIn states that there are unmet needs that financial companies will be able to provide through the use of social media, including providing best practices, sharing new innovation and technology developments, company background information, and more.

Among the many trustworthy social networks out there, LinkedIn states that SMBs consider LinkedIn (surprise!) to be the one where discussions can take place with financial service providers.

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It’s a tad awkward for LinkedIn to be running a study where SMBs say that LinkedIn is the best social network, but Kahvinson says that the company has a stake in the game. She says that LinkedIn is very invested in the SMB market and that it is “very much committed to supporting and connecting SMBs around the world to create economic opportunities.” This falls in line with LinkedIn’s Economic Graph concept that CEO Jeff Weiner unveiled in 2012.

Khavinson hopes that SMBs will read this report and discover how powerful social media is in this day of age and how crucial it is to be involved and engaged. To help facilitate this, LinkedIn has launched LinkedIn for small business, a resource guide to help SMBs throughout their journey. There are tips and best practices relating to personal branding, marketing, sales, and hiring more staff. It’s also free for anyone to use.

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LinkedIn for small business

Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images