A couple of weeks back, we suggested you listen to the experts when considering social media as part of your marketing program. And by “experts” we didn’t mean social media gurus – we meant your fellow small business owners.

Well, if they weren’t enough to convince you, we’d like to share the opinions of some other experts – and this time, we mean the folks who are actually going to be spending money at someone’s business.

MarketWatch is reporting on the latest Global Consumer Shopping Habits study from ChannelAdvisor. Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor explains:

Click graph to view full-sized.The survey reveals how influential social networks have become, as well as their potential to drive e-commerce moving forward.

Globally, 84% of shoppers use Facebook. Twitter lags behind at 35%… yet even that figure is up 11% from last year.

But you already knew they’re on Facebook… isn’t everybody? (Yes. Even our grandmother is on Facebook at this point.) The question for businesses is, “What are they doing on Facebook?”

Well, in the US, 46% of them are following brands.

Click graph to view full-sized.What’s more, they like that “like” button. 81% of respondents actively like content, which means giving them what they want (interesting, informative content) will encourage them to give you what you want (the “like”).

What’s so important about getting them to click that button?

Eighty-three percent of consumers globally are likely to visit a website recommended by a friend on Facebook, and more than half say comments posted on retailers’ Facebook and Twitter pages, whether positive or negative, also influence their opinions.

So getting that “like” is like starting a chain reaction… you immediately become more visible to the friends of your fans (a demographic we’ve mentioned before). And it doesn’t only work for one business.

ChannelAdvisor also offers a Facebook Commerce Index, which tracks trends in page fans and top pages. In August, The FBCI grew by 13.4 million fans.

  • Growth – The total number of online retailer fans increased 5.9% since July – a 71% annualized growth rate without compounding.
  • Audience – The total fan count jumped from 227m to 240m fans from July to August.

As the Facebook user base grows (and they’ve recently announced they’re at 800 million and counting), so does the number of those users who “like” brands. And it’s a simple human truth –  we tend to like what our friends like.

This year to date, overall fan count for the Index has grown 63%, proving that retailers are encouraging likes and recognizing the value of Facebook fans.

With that in mind, we’d like to remind you of some good advice from Fast Company we shared before:

The solution is to reach friends of fans through messages that are shareable, and promotions that require voting, checking in, or other interactivity.

Give your fans a reason to click the button, and introduce you to their friends… who are more likely to also click the button, and introduce you to more friends… who are more likely to…

See?

Chain reaction.