A report from M Booth and Beyond found that more than half of consumers have engaged with a brand on the web.

Businesses doubting the benefits of social media marketing should consider new evidence from M Booth and Beyond that more than half of consumers (53 percent) say they’ve engaged brands on Facebook . Additionally, the study, The Science of Sharing, shows that search-friendly content marketing is key to garnering shares and feedback from prospects across the web.

Creating social media content that compels users to share or interact will spark activity that helps businesses improve sales and generate leads, the firms say in The Science of Sharing’s release.

The study reveals that consumers have become more aggressive in sharing their thoughts with friends and the web community at large through social platforms and other forums for user-generated content, such as product reviews and blogs. More than 40 percent of survey respondents said they have written and posted a product review online, while 33 percent said they’ve posted some general information regarding a product somewhere on the web.

Whether user conversations are positive or negative, businesses can guide discussions regarding their brands online by engaging users and soliciting feedback.

M Booth and Beyond reported that this begins with a search marketing and SEO campaign that will guide users to the optimal channels to engage with the brand.

“Search is essential for brands, and sharable creative content creation is of the utmost importance in order to generate strong organic search results to increase search’s influence on the consumer,” David Hargreaves, CEO of Beyond, said in a release. “The brand that can identify its online advocates and get them to share more content with their friends will most likely see an increase in sales.”

Identifying power users on social media, essentially those most likely to start and guide conversations, is different for every business. Beyond and M Booth pointed to people in their 20s with buying power and strong internet acumen as the those most likely to be power users.

User-generated content can help boost the profile of a business. Targeting social campaigns as users most likely to share their favorite or most interesting posts with friends has helped Coke become one of the most successful brands in terms of social media marketing, Brafton reported last week.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.