If you either haven’t downloaded Hubspot’s “State of Inbound Marketing” report (February 2011) or haven’t taken a look at it recently, this week is as good as any to get a glimpse at the evolution of social media’s importance in the world of business. Here are a few stats for you:

  • 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.
  • Businesses are now in the minority if they do not blog. From 2009 to 2011 the percentage of businesses with a blog grew from 48% to 65%.
  • Businesses are increasingly aware their blog is highly valuable: 85% of businesses rated their company blogs as useful, important or critical. 27% rated their company blog as critical to their business.

Clearly, LinkedIn and company blogs still have more pull in B2B than the more B2C friendly Facebook and Twitter. That being said, customer acquisition numbers are strong in both B2B and B2C for all four channels mentioned above. Just because some channels work better than others doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also use others. Two reasons:

1. Not all channels reach maturity at the same time. In 2 years, Facebook could be as strong a customer acquisition channel as LinkedIn is today. If that happens, you don’t want to be left out. And for a B2B business, 41% might not be as strong as 67%, but it is still nothing to sneeze at.

2. Hubspot’s figures are composites. Averages. Since every business can use social channels differently, results will vary from biz to biz. A 41% average in this study doesn’t mean your business will see 41% for the same channel and outcome. Could be worse, could be better. Your success on a channel depends a lot more on what you do there than on the channel itself.

Customer Acquisition by Channel by Industry

Above: A breakdown by industry of which, among the four channels studied in this report, contributed to the most (and comparatively the least) customers acquisitions.

Below: The change in business perception from 2009 to 2011 in the importance of various key channels.

Channels gaining importance 2009 vs 2011

This next chart illustrates a pretty radical shift in perception in regards to inbound marketing (in orange) vs. outbound marketing (in blue), with social media, SEO, blogs (somehow considered apart from social media?) and PPC outpacing trade shows, telemarketing and direct mail for mindshare. 62% of respondents agreed that social media had grown in importance in the last 6 months, vs. only 11% in support of telemarketing.

Lead Sources 2011 becoming less important Lead Sources 2011 becoming more important

The flip side of that question is illustrated above: Which sources of leads have become less important to you over the last 6 months? Though the clear losers are direct mail, trade shows, telemarketing and PPC (22% see PPC as more important while 25% see it as less important), the winner, in spite of its position on the far right of the chart with a 10% response, is not SEO. The winner, boys and girls, is Social Media. Why? Because since 0% of respondents saw it as less important to them, it doesn’t even show up on the chart.

It won’t come as a surprise then, that companies taking part in this survey have also indicated a drop in (outbound) direct mail, trade shows and telemarketing budgets, and an increase in (inbound) blogs, social media, SEO budgets.

A few more handy stats from the report:

  • Inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 62% lower than outbound marketing-dominated organizations.
  • In 2009,inbound marketing had a 9% greater share of the lead generation budget. In 2011 its share is 17% greater.
  • Blogs, social media and organic search maintain the top slots as least expensive lead generation channels.
  • Blogs have the highest instance of being reported as Below Average Cost. (55% of companies who blog indicated leads from this channel were ―Below Average Cost.)
  • 89% of organizations surveyed are either maintaining or increasing their inbound marketing budgets.
  • At the start of 2011, small businesses (1 to 5 employees) planned to spend 49% of their lead generation budgets on inbound marketing. In comparison, medium-to-large businesses (50 or more employees) only planned to spend 36% of their lead generation budgets on inbound marketing.
  • Small business are only giving 10% of their budget to outbound, while medium-to-large business are allocating 28% of their budget to outbound channels.
  • If a company blog is underutilized, you are leaving customers on the table. The 2011 survey shows a direct correlation between blog post frequency and new customers acquired.

Lots of handy insights. Check out the full report here.