By Rieva Lesonsky

Is your business still on the fence when it comes to using social media? If so, I have some figures that may inspire you to hop off. Mass Relevance conducted a study, reported by ClickZ, and found that more than half (59 percent) of consumers would rather do business with businesses that integrate social media into their digital presence.

Here’s some more of what the study found:

  • Social leads to referrals. More than half of respondents say they are more likely to suggest friends try a product from a company that uses social media.
  • Social gets people talking. Three-fourths of respondents overall say they talk about brands on social media. For younger customers (aged 18 to 34), a whopping 91 percent do so.
  • Social gets people buying. Some 63 percent of respondents say positive comments about a product or company on social media make them more likely to buy. And a similar amount say they have made purchases based on content they found on social media.

What’s the takeaway from this survey? Personally, I see a turning point. Today, if your company doesn’t have a website, prospective customers are likely to feel somewhat suspicious. “Is this a REAL business?” they’ll wonder. “Why can’t I find them online?”

In the same way, participation in social media is becoming a marker of a business’s credibility. Just like having a website, it’s rapidly becoming essential—especially among the younger crowd. The 18-to-34-year-olds in the survey were far more likely to value social media involvement, with 67 percent saying they prefer to do business with companies that use social media, compared to 46 percent overall. As this age group is rapidly growing in importance as consumers both of today and of the future, you need to think about how they’ll choose companies to do business with going forward.

If you’re already using social media, think about ways you can incorporate it even further into your business’s digital presence. Are you linking to your social sites from your website, your email communications, your newsletters? Are you mentioning them with icons in your print marketing materials and signage?

If you’re not already using social media, please don’t wait another minute. If you’re confused by social media, I sympathize—it’s a lot to take in. But there are places to get help; SCORE and your local SBDC are two I recommend.