The last year has seen a rise in UK companies using social networks to win new business, says a new global survey. In 2010, 33% of UK firms were successfully winning new customers through social networking activity.

A year later, the proportion has risen eight percentage points to 41%. The research also reveals that more firms are also using social media to connect and engage with existing customers than a year ago.

  • Globally there has been a rise of 7% in the proportion of businesses successfully recruiting new customers through social networks.
  • 52% of businesses globally and 48% in the UK use the channel to engage, connect with and inform existing customers
  • In the UK 50% of firms encourage their employees to join business networks, compared to 53% globally.
  • Two fifths (39%) of companies globally and a third in the UK (33%) devote up to 20% of their marketing budget to business social networking activity.

Social networking has fully evolved from a nice-to-have to a necessity as the majority of businesses in the UK (66%), and internationally (74%) agree that without social media activity, their marketing initiatives cannot hope to be successful. Nevertheless, UK and global firms are also emphasizing the need for a balance of marketing media, confirming their belief that without a combination of traditional and digital techniques marketing campaigns will not work (61%).

The global survey findings are based on the responses of over 17,000 managers and business owners across 80 countries, including over 4000 respondents in the UK.

Business social networking has finally come into its own in the commercial world. More and more companies are leveraging the channel not only to increase the loyalty of existing customers, but as a successful acquisition tool. As businesses emerge from the downturn they are increasingly reconsidering pre-recession working practices and opting for more flexible, competitive strategies.

Among these, the use of business social media is proving extremely successful and suited to the fast pace of recovery. Particularly in the UK where one in three social network users is a fan, follower or friend of a company page or profile, firms should expect to see an increasing proportion of marketing budget being destined to this activity.