Professionals working in West Michigan businesses and nonprofit organizations say the reason they use social media is mostly for sales and business development, but they say the biggest benefit has been making connections and building awareness of their organization.

Dr. Penning talks with attendees of the LinkedUp Grand Rapids social media update event.

These are some of the results of a survey of West Michigan professionals about their professional social media use. The sample was members of LinkedUp Grand Rapids, a local social networking group on LinkedIn. There were 242 responses, including business-to-business, business-to-consumer, and nonprofit organizations.

The survey was sent to members of the LinkedUp Grand Rapids group. Analyzed results were presented to members of the group at one of its regular networking events on the evening of March 21 by Mike Yoder, the group manager, as well as Jeff Gartner of Gartner and Associates and Dr. Tim Penning of the GVSU School of Communications.

“We have a lot of conversations in person and online about social media use as professionals and we wanted to see what are the common experiences and challenges people have,” Yoder said.

Other results of the survey included:

  • 89% said staff with other responsibilities managed their social media;
  • the majority said they “did not know” or used hits on Facebook or Web site to measure the success of their social media efforts;
  • when comparing their organization to others’ use of social media, 26% said they were “a little ahead,” 25% said “about the same”, and 24% said a “little behind”;
  • in terms of what is needed to improve their social media activity, the most common answers were time, staff knowledge, and resources/budget;
  • one-third of respondents said they expect to increase their budget for social media in the coming year.

“We were surprised at the comparatively low percentage of respondents who say they use social media for staffing and recruiting purposes, just 30%, “Gartner said. “This is partly explained by the sample profile, with 57% of the respondents in organizations with 1 to 25 employees. But it’s still less than expected.”

Penning said the results of the survey of West Michigan professionals shows them to be similar in their social media use to businesses and nonprofits around the country.

“Studies of the Fortune 500 companies and Philanthropy 400 nonprofit organizations show a slow adaptation to the conversational nature of social media,” Penning said. “Also, the struggle to measure the effectiveness of social media is common.”

Yoder, Gartner and Penning plan to include more specific questions and repeat the survey in 2013.

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