Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are considered engines for economic growth, and with good reason. They contribute $5.5 trillion in annual revenue in North America, according to Dun & Bradstreet. They’re usually eager to grow their companies, and are always looking for new ways to raise the profile of their brands and rev up their marketing efforts.

Social media plays a critical role in these growth and marketing efforts, according to the new LinkedIn survey of financial decision makers at SMBs in the U.S. and Canada.  Titled Priming the Economic Engine: How Social Media is Driving Growth for Small and Medium Businesses, LinkedIn partnered with TNS for the study and surveyed 998 North American small and medium business professionals with revenue between $1 million and less than $50 million.

Through the study, we found that SMBs that are in growth mode rely heavily on social media for multiple activities in their value chain, including finding and researching financial services providers. As our survey shows, if financial services providers want to build relationships with this desirable sector, social networks offer the most influential and trusted venue.

For financial marketers, SMBs’ engagement with social media presents a lucrative marketing opportunity. Building relationships with prospects in this community is a much easier task when SMBs are reaching out for information, and willing to engage in conversation with financial providers.

As we began our survey, we wanted to understand how SMBs view social media in relation to their businesses. Eighty-one percent of SMBs we surveyed use social media, and of this group, nearly all of them (94 percent) use it to market their businesses. However, 49 percent of these SMBs also see social media as a valuable source for learning about their markets and about growing a business – for example, they use social media to connect with their peers, discover best practices, learn from other experts, and get answers to their business questions.

Our survey shows compelling links between the growth of a business and its spending on social media. Three out of five businesses we surveyed are in growth mode – showing an increase in revenue from year to year – while one in six businesses are in “hyper growth” mode, meaning that they’re showing significant increases in revenue.

We saw a high correlation between hyper growth SMBs and their investment in social media, as seventy three percent of hyper growth SMBs reported an increased spend on social media. Additionally, they are finding social to be a highly effective way to maintain brand presence and identity (90 percent) and a meaningful source of lead generation (82 percent).

Our study also found that 68 percent of the SMBs surveyed use social media for finance-related reasons – for example, keeping up to date on financial trends, gathering information about financial companies and products, and getting advice on financial decisions.

Given their willingness to market their businesses and seek knowledge within social networks, financial marketers with an eye on SMBs should invest time and resources meeting them where they are.

Hearing or reading about a financial services product or service on social media is likely to trigger SMB decision makers to take further action, whether that means educating themselves, engaging in discussion, or purchasing a product. According to the survey, 93 percent of SMBs are driven to take action by information they see on social networks about financial services.

Financial service providers should take advantage of this marketing opportunity by becoming active participants on social networks, and delivering content that SMBs say they need but currently aren’t receiving, such as best practices guides, information on innovative business technologies, and new product information.

LinkedIn is squarely at the intersection of SMBs’ desire to learn more about their businesses and financial institutions’ goals for reaching this audience. Fifty-seven percent of all SMBs surveyed (and 69 percent of hyper growth SMBs) said that LinkedIn is their favored social destination for learning more about financial products and services. In the path to purchase for financial services, LinkedIn is a community that SMBs trust and value.

For more insights on how social media is driving growth of SMBs, download the full study here.

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Priming the Economic Engine: How Social Media is Driving Growth for Small and Medium Businesses was conducted by TNS for LinkedIn.