Social networking has become a mainstream business tool in the UAE with fully 46% of businesses having successfully used social networks to win new business, reveals a new global survey commissioned by global workspace solutions provider Regus.
Testimony to the faith businesses are now putting in the social networking medium is seen in the revelation that well over a quarter of businesses world-wide (27%) have set aside a proportion of marketing budget – hard cash – specifically devoted to social networking activities.
Up to now, relatively little analysis is available regarding the real use businesses are making of social networking and whether hard business can be generated through this channel. To glean whether businesses globally believe that social networking is ready to take its place among an array of marketing tools, the Regus survey asked business leaders not only whether they had made any customer wins using social networking, but also whether they believed the channel effective enough to be awarded its own portion of marketing budget.
Globally, social networks are still used for their original range of functions. The most popular use of social networks is staying in touch with business contacts, with 58% of respondents globally declaring they use networks in this way. Joining special interest groups is also popular (54%). Although a number of sceptics (34%) believe social networking will never become a significant method of connecting to customers and prospects, a full 51% of firms organise, connect to or manage customer groups via social networks. 54% of firms use social networks to find out useful business information. Surprisingly, however, only 22% of respondents had found new employment through social networking, this in spite of the specific job search functions of networks such as LinkedIn.
In the UAE specifically almost a third (29%) of businesses have set aside a proportion of marketing budget specifically devoted to social networking activities. A full 68% of respondents use social networking to keep in touch with contacts (globally 58%), and 11% more than average regularly use social networks to find useful information (globally 54%). 59% of respondents declared that the main usefulness of social networks was the possibility to manage and connect to customer groups. Fully 10% more respondents than average ( 44%) declared that they were impressed by audio/visual animations on a company profile.
Mark Dixon, CEO of Regus, comments: "Our groundbreaking global survey has revealed that social networking has finally become a mainstream business tool. Although there is a hardcore of sceptics globally, who do not believe that social networks will become a significant method of reaching customers and prospects, a significant proportion of firms are devoting real marketing budgets through the medium to acquire new customers and keep existing ones. With recent reports declaring that 8.3% of active Facebook users coming from the MENA region and 48% of hits for social networking sites coming from this region, it is not surprising to find the UAE ahead of the game.
"Whilst the most popular function of these networks remains that of keeping in touch with contacts, businesses are also successfully acquiring new customers, supporting their retention efforts and interacting with customer groups. This survey indicates that organisations who have not yet ventured into the world of social networking may be missing out on sizeable business opportunities. This is particularly the case in the Netherlands (48%), India (52%), Mexico (50%) and Spain (50%), where the highest level of new customer acquisition via social networking was reported."
The survey also analysed company size differences and found that overall small companies were a little more likely than average to use social networking. In the UAE 54% of small companies had successfully found new customers through social networks compared to 33% of large companies. Small firms (33%) are also more likely to actively devote marketing budget to this activity compared to large firms (11%). 67% of small sized companies use of social networking to gather important information while fully 78% of large firms believe the main usefulness of social networks is managing and organising customer groups.
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