Want some good news for your Wednesday? How\u2019s this: If you\u2019re a small business owner who is investing time in social media, chances are you\u2019re beating out your medium- and large-sized counterparts in benefits. How\u2019s that feel? Pretty good, right? And that was just one of the statistics that came out of the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report put together by Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. Michael\u2019s report polled 3,342 business owners and analyzed their experiences with social media. What he found was that SMBs using social for local marketing saw significant boosts in exposure, traffic and sales. Not bad. More than 90 percent of marketers surveyed responded they view social media as being important to their business, with the self-employed set finding it even more useful. Sixty-seven percent of self-employed marketers, and 66 percent of SMBs with 2 or more employees, were more likely to \u201cstrongly agree\u201d with that statement. What are marketers getting from social media? The leading benefit of social media for small business is increased brand awareness, as cited by 88 percent of marketers. Other benefits cited were: Increase Traffic \u2013 72 percent Improved Search Rankings \u2013 62 percent New Partnerships \u2013 59 percent Better Sales \u2013 48 percent Reduction in Marketing Costs \u2013 59 percent for self-employed, 58 percent for SMBs Twice as likely to find qualified leads Or, in other words, social media is taking what used to be a fractured set of the population and connecting them to the people who can help their business. When you take an entrepreneur who previously worked in isolation out of his basement selling vinyl records and introduce him to the world of social media, suddenly his business is more search-friendly, more profitable and better connected because he\u2019s no longer cut off from resources. Through social media and tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogging he\u2019s able to reach out and build awareness like never before. The result of that, as this data set captures, is pretty major. But to benefit from social media, you need to spend time there. Unequivocally, the numbers showed that the business that invests more time in social media sees more results. These relationships take time to work up, which translates to investing many hours per week, over a long stretch of time, to see social media\u2019s true benefit. For example, the survey found that 52 percent of marketers who spent 6 hours a week engaging in social media saw lead generation benefits and that 45 percent of marketers who have been in social media for 12 months or less created new partnerships as a result of their interactions. If you\u2019re looking to justify your social media time, those seem like pretty good numbers to know. If you have any questions as to whether or not social media can \u201cwork\u201d for your business and what your participation needs to look like to achieve different goals, I\u2019d recommend you check out Michael\u2019s 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report survey because it really does house a lot of really interesting statistics that I haven\u2019t seen published elsewhere.