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How Marketers Use Social Media New report reveals how marketers are using social media to reach their customers.

By Mikal E. Belicove

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

How Marketers Use Social MediaIf you're not only the CEO, but also the CMO you may be wondering if all of your social media efforts are panning out. According to a new report, you're not alone.

While 90 percent of marketers now say that social media-related marketing is important for their business, nearly 25 percent are still in the dark when it comes to measuring its effect, according to the third annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Michael A. Stelzner, founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com.

Although it's hard to justify plowing resources into something that you're not sure is working, marketers overall have deemed social media a must. Here are six of the key takeaways from the more than 3,300 marketers from businesses of all sizes who participated in the survey:

1. Social media takes time.
Fifty-eight percent of marketers said they use social media six hours or more a week and another third spend 11 or more hours a week on it. Those with the most years of experience pour more than 20 hours a week into the effort.

2. Have a goal in mind.
Eighty-eight percent of marketers said social media was ideal for generating exposure for their business, while 72 percent claim it has helped increase traffic or subscribers. Sixty two percent of marketers added that social media improves their business' search rankings. Other benefits of social media marketing include creating new business partnerships, generating qualified leads, reducing marketing expenses and improving sales.

3. Social media isn't just useful for reaching consumers.
Business to consumer, or B2C, marketers continue to place a high value on social media, with 90 percent saying it is most important for their business. But business to business, or B2B, companies have joined the fray -- with more than half saying they've been engaged in social media longer than a year. That's compared to 31 percent in last year's report.

4. Pick your medium.
Not every social media site will help you accomplish your goals; it's best to pick according to the sites that your customers use. But if you want to build a presence in front of the most eyeballs, Facebook edged out Twitter for the top spot -- a change over last year. With 92 percent of marketers saying they use the tool and 75 percent planning to use it, Facebook once again reigns supreme. Still, 77 percent of respondents say they intend to increase their YouTube and video marketing efforts -- making it the top vehicle that marketers want to invest in for 2011.

5. Wade in to new(er) sites.
Less than one third of marketers say they'll hike their participation in geolocation services such as Foursquare and Gowalla. And a paltry 19 percent of marketers plan to step up their use of Groupon or similar group-shopping sites.

6. Consider getting help.
Twenty-eight percent of businesses plan to outsource part of their social media marketing efforts in 2011. That number has doubled since last year's report when 14 percent said they outsourced such tasks as design and development, content creation and analytics to others outside the company.

What social media vehicle do you find most effective for your business? Leave a comment and let us know why.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. 

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