Social media marketing is officially a top contending small business marketing tool. A whopping 73 percent of small businesses are using social media to market their business—and usage is trending upwards. So says a new study from Constant Contact.

What’s up with the 27 percent of small businesses that aren’t using social media to market their businesses? Well, they are beginning to open their eyes to these tools as well. Specifically, 62 percent expect to start using social media marketing in the coming year. What’s more, 81 percent of small businesses that are already using social media marketing plan to use it even more this year than they did last year.

"The value proposition that social media marketing offers to small business makes it a no brainer for time- and resource-starved small businesses. They simply need coaching and know-how to use those tools in the best way possible," says Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. "Our assessment of this data is that more education will only improve small businesses' results with social media marketing."

Facebook Reigns Supreme
Of the small businesses that are engaged in social media marketing, 80 percent have used the tools more in the past year. And, not surprisingly, Facebook is the most popular way to get their message out. Ninety-five percent of small businesses that use social media marketing are using Facebook compared to 63 percent a year ago. Eighty-two percent find it effective today compared to 51 percent a year ago.

While Facebook rules, though Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Vimeo are getting some action from small business marketers. But how effective is it? Forty-seven percent of small businesses using Twitter and LinkedIn find it effective while 73 percent of small businesses that use YouTube and Vimeo found these video options effective.

Mixing E-mail and Social Media
OK, so where does e-mail fit into this picture? Small businesses still turn to e-mail, Web sites and event marketing. Indeed, the Constant Contact survey results reveal that social media marketing complements rather than replaces other marketing activities. Despite the growth of social media, other marketing tools aren’t seeing any usage decline:

  • 91% of small businesses use e-mail marketing

  • 95% use Web site marketing

  • 77% use print advertising

  • 69% use online advertising

  • 53% use event marketing

In fact, respondents also reported that e-mail is the first—and most frequent—tool that small businesses turn to when trying to connect with current and prospective customers. Eighty-three percent report that e-mail is the first tool they check when going online for their business each day and 72 percent check their e-mail six or more times a day. By comparison, 13 percent check Facebook, 6 percent check news sites, and 4 percent check Twitter more than six times per day.

"We've seen our small business customers improve their results by integrating tools, such as e-mail marketing with social media marketing," says Goodman. "Email is still the most obvious choice to make sure your message gets out, and social media puts that message in front of a wider audience. We like to say that email lights the fire, while social media fans the flames."