A survey conducted by Really Simple Systems, Europe's largest hosted CRM (Customer Relationship Management) vendor, has revealed that great swathes of small and medium-sized enterprises are embracing social media as a means of conducting business. The annual survey has traditionally questioned small business owners, directors, sales, marketing and IT managers, on their views of cloud services and the reliability of the products currently available in the market and this year covered the issue of social media for the first time.
From a sample of 862 respondents - the majority from small and medium-sized organizations with less than 50 employees - 62% report that they now use social networking in everyday business. The research also shows that 92% of those using it do so to keep in touch with existing customers, whilst 78% are using it to find new customers.
LinkedIn is the most widely-used social media tool by small businesses, with 83% of those that said they were using social media using the business-orientated social networking site. Facebook (72% of respondents) is the next most popular means of conducting 'social business', followed closely by Twitter (65%). Forty-four percent of these socially active small businesses also run a company blog to engage with the public, but only 3.5% reported to be using MySpace, and a handful of others are using other forms of social media such as YouTube, Yammer, Xing, Quora and FourSquare.
The use of cloud CRM by small businesses has now overtaken in-house CRM, with 45% of respondents now using hosted applications as opposed to 36% using in-house CRM.
The survey confirms that CRM systems remain the most popular type of Cloud-based solution used by small businesses and 66% of respondents reported that they are now more confident in hosted CRM systems than traditional in-house systems. The use of hosted accounting, ERP, payroll and manufacturing solutions has gone up slightly (between one and three percent), whilst one percent less companies are using a hosted HR system. Despite only a modest rise in their use, confidence in hosted systems over their in-house counterparts has risen in most areas, most notably in the payroll market, with some 54% or respondents now more confident in hosted solutions - up 10% on last year.
The survey also revealed that almost half of respondents feel as confident about the reliability, speed, data safety, and functionality of cloud applications as they do with in-house offerings. This is indicative of the now almost identical usage of hosted and in-house CRM.
Perhaps surprisingly, 40% of those questioned plan to spend more on IT in the next 12 months than they did in the last 12 months and a further 38% will keep IT spend at the same level.
More information on Social CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com.