eMarketer today published a piece called "Social Network Marketing Expands Sphere" with some encouraging business news about social networks.
While businesses are still discovering ways to achieve marketing goals with social networks, it's evident that social networks are versatile marketing tools. eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson noted that "The beauty of social networks is that they are a place where nearly any marketing goal can be achieved, with nearly any marketing tactic."
A May 2009 study disputes conventional wisdom that social networking is only person-to-person. 52% of people follow or have become a fan of a company on social networks, and 46% have said something positive about companies on social networks.
Social networks haven't shown much promise (yet) in generating direct sales. 46% of social media marketing professionals say that social networks are not effective at increasing online sales. Still, increased direct sales from social networks may eventually occur, especially considering Facebook's upcoming virtual currency and 1-800-FLOWERS' commerce integration with Facebook.
My guess is that many of these social media marketing professionals may be overlooking the indirect effects of brand-building. Several studies cite that "the stronger a brand's social media presence, the better the brand performed‚ whether measured in conversations or in financial performance."