Businesses are now putting faith in the social networking medium and the fact is evident with the revelation that well over a quarter of businesses worldwide (27 per cent) have set aside a proportion of their marketing budget for social networking activities, the Regus survey said.
However, it is still unclear whether actual revenue can be generated through social networks, with most corporates using the tool to stay connected with their contacts and find out business information.
To understand whether businesses globally believe that social networking is ready to take its place among an array of marketing tools, the survey asked business leaders whether they had made any customer wins using social networking and if they believed the channel was effective enough to be awarded its own portion of their 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 per cent of respondents globally declaring they use networks in this way.
Joining special interest groups is also popular (54 per cent). Although a number of sceptics (34 per cent) believe social networking will never become a significant method to connect with customers and prospects, 51 per cent of the firms surveyed said they organise, connect to or manage customer groups via social networks. 54 per cent of the firms use it to find out useful business information.
Surprisingly, however, only 22 per cent of the respondents have found new employment through social networking, in spite of specific job search functions on networks such as LinkedIn.
In India specifically, almost a third (32 per cent) of businesses have set aside a proportion of their marketing budget for social networking activities.
13 per cent more respondents in India used social networking to keep in touch with contacts than the global average and 71 per cent declared that the main use of social networks was to manage and connect to customer groups.
20 per cent more Indian respondents declared that they were impressed by audio/visual animations on a company profile than the global average of 44 per cent.
Regus Country Head Madhusudan Thakur said, "Our 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," he added.