If you have a small business, you’re getting more bang for your bucks from social media marketing than the big boys, a new study shows.

Ninety percent of the 3,342 marketers polled for the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report said they agreed with the statement, “Is social media important to your business?” But the study, authored by Michael Stelzner at Social Media Examiner, showed that self-employed (67 percent) and small business owners (66 percent) were more likely to strongly agree with this statement.

Almost all marketers find that social media helps them stand out in an increasingly noisy marketplace and get increased exposure , traffic and subscriptions, the study said. But small business owners were more likely than all other segments (89.2 percent) to see increased exposure.

The concrete benefits attributed to social media marketing included new partnerships (59 percent), improved sales (48 percent) and reduction in marketing costs (59 percent for self-employed and 58 percent for small businesses). In addition, small businesses said they were twice as likely to find qualified leads .

The payback equation was pretty simple, the report concluded; the more time you put in, the bigger the payback. Three-quarters of those spending as little as six hours per week on social media marketing saw increased traffic, and were twice as likely to see leads generated as those who spend five hours or less.

Playing time is also important, with companies and self-employed individuals with three years or more experience in social media marketing getting the greatest results. Only 25 percent of those businesses just getting started in social media marketing saw new partnerships formed, as compared to 80 percent or more of those with three or more years of experience.

Like magpies, marketers tend to be attracted to glittering new tools, but the study showed that four dominated the toolkits of marketers: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs. Facebook eclipsed Twitter in this year’s study, while MySpace has fallen off the radar — 81 percent of marketers have benched it completely.