SMBs should invest in the channels that will produce the most ROI.

Small businesses looking to increase their visibility on the web can use social media marketing to influence their prospects’ purchase decisions. According to a new study from Market Force, social engagement with SMBs can be as influential for consumers as the advice of their friends.

Market Force found that 81 percent of consumers friends’ online recommendations impact purchases decisions. Meanwhile, 78 percent said social media content shared by companies on different platforms effectively guides them through conversion funnels.

Developing a social media presence can be difficult for SMBs. However, sharing information with consumers can help spread a company’s message and attract new prospects.

Market Force found that consumers follow and Like SMBs on social networks for a few very specific reasons. Seventy-nine percent said they do so because to receive access to special offers or other incentives. However, those also using content marketing can use their articles and blog posts to appeal to the 70 percent of respondents who said they want information from companies, including details on sales and other events.

A number of different types of SMBs have found social is a useful component of their marketing efforts – especially Facebook, where consumers increasingly Like business pages. While restaurants and retail stores are the most popular, Liked by more than three-quarters of respondents, businesses in the travel and financial services industry are also seeing more engagement from consumers.

While social media marketing’s appeal continues to grow, SMBs are struggling to assess the effectiveness of their campaigns. ContentLEAD recently reported that 28 percent of organizations using social do not measure the success of their social efforts.