Savvy Use of Social Media Pays Off Big for Small Business Credit: Bridging the gap image via Shutterstock

Despite the rapidly increasing adoption of social media by small and medium businesses, there is a widening gap between those SMBs that use social media in an informal, ad hoc manner and those taking a more planned, strategic approach.  This has significant implications, because a new study shows SMBs that use social media strategically are more satisfied with the results.

Social media is now used by 53 percent of small businesses (those with no more than 99 employees), up from 44 percent a year ago, and 63 percent of medium businesses (100-999 employees), up from 52 percent, according to a survey conducted by the SMB Group, a research organization.

In addition, 35 percent of the SMBs using social media indicate that they displaced other marketing tools this year. The tools that most commonly gave way to social media included direct mail; publications including newspapers, business trade journals and magazines;  the Yellow Pages, and email marketing.

[Remedial Reading for Social Media Marketing Dummies]

But the needle has barely moved at all for making social media use part of a planned corporate strategy, according to Sanjeev Aggarwal, founder of the SMB Group. While more SMBs are using social media, the study found they lack the solutions, expertise and guidance to integrate them with other business processes and use them more effectively. As a result, they're leaving money on the table.

SMBs that use social media as part of a planned corporate approach are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to anticipate revenue growth than ad hoc users are, the survey found.

The top challenges SMBs cited to using social media more strategically were lack of time, inability to measure value, difficulty integrating social media with other business activities, and lack of budget.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.