Social media may be a relatively new phenomenon, but it has become increasingly vital for companies to effectively market their business, according to a new survey conducted by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce.
Of the businesses surveyed in the study, 57 percent said they use social media at the office, compared to the 26 percent surveyed last year.
“It was definitely the overall consensus,” said Lauren Hagan, the chamber’s communications director. “A lot of businesses are using social media. It is definitely the trend now.”
Hagan said in the business world it is commonplace to use the sites, which include Facebook that launched in 2004 to communicate with friends; Twitter, created in 2006 to enable users to send and read text messages called “tweets;” LinkedIn, formed in 2003 as a networking site for professionals; and YouTube, which debuted in 2005 as a video-sharing website.
For the last two years, the chamber and Frederick Community College have conducted a “Social Business Survey,” to learn how local companies, professionals and organizations are using today’s social media and technology.
The chamber emailed the survey to 3,600 members and 82 responded, Hagan said.
Even though only 82 people responded, the results are useful because they show a growing trend toward social media marketing tools, according to Hagan.
The survey, whose results were released last month, is a follow up to the chamber’s fifth annual New Media & Technology Conference at Frederick Community College on Feb. 22. That all-day conference included about 100 professionals from throughout the county who came together to discuss how using social media has helped to market their businesses.
Soldierfit, a military-style physical fitness program in Frederick, told The Gazette that they use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with its “troops” or mentors, giving them information on classes, weather-related cancellations and upcoming events.
“It’s a way to communicate with them,” Chris Anderson, a salesman with Soldierfit in Frederick, told The Gazette at the conference. “It’s amazing how social media does work.”
The chamber’s survey results confirmed that social media is no longer a passing trend, and has instead become a popular way to do business in today’s competitive climate.
“Reflecting national trends, survey participants in Frederick County reported increasing use of mobile devices and apps,” the survey said. “There are few guarantees in marketing, but the rise of mobile is a sure bet. If you’re not creating content that’s suitable for smartphones and tablets, you’re missing out on reaching the most connected professionals in the Frederick area.”
Many businesses said they find marketing on a website or Facebook less costly or no cost at all than traditional advertising.
According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents are using smartphones to go online, up from 60 percent last year. And 63 percent said they “can’t live without a smartphone.”
“Reflecting national trends, survey participants in Frederick County reported increasing use of mobile devices and apps,” the survey said.
Businesses that traditionally used other media to market their company are now using social media to reach more people faster.
“Every business should at least have an online footprint,” Steven L. Johnson, a professor in social media at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, Pa., said in an interview. “Twenty years ago businesses advertised in the Yellow Pages. Now it’s Google.”
Johnson said businesses with websites that allow for customer comments are essential.
“This is how they can monitor what is being said about them online,” he said.
In fact, 57 percent of the people surveyed in the chamber study said they read online reviews daily. That is up from 43 percent last year.
“With social media, you really want to engage with your customers,” Hagan said.
Hagan said the results of the study were compiled into graphics and available to chamber members. A comparison of this year’s results to last year’s survey will also be done.