A new report reveals that 72 percent of brands see increased traffic from social media marketing.

Ninety percent of marketers say that social media is important to their businesses, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report presented by Social Media Examiner. The survey asked more than 3,000 marketers about how social media has enhanced their internet marketing efforts, and the results speak to the overall rise of the channel.

The leading benefit of social media marketing is brand exposure, cited as a positive result by 88 percent of marketers. Increasing traffic to sites was another top advantage, with 72 percent saying they gained traffic and subscribers via social media outreach. (This could inspire marketers to share links to their site content across social networks, directing fans and followers to their websites.)

Improved search rankings were another benefit of social marketing for nearly two-thirds of respondents (62 percent). This finding supports an earlier statement by Google's Matt Cutts that social media marketing should be an SEO priority in 2011.

The survey also found that more experienced social marketers have taken to outsourcing some or all of their campaigns. Nearly one-third of marketers with three or more years experience in social marketing (32 percent) outsource some aspect of campaigns.

The number of overall marketers who say they outsource social marketing has doubled to 28 percent since 2010. With this in mind, brands may consider turning to social media experts to help them maximize their results.

Maximizing results is certainly on the minds of social marketers this year. As Brafton has reported, just 12 percent of companies thought they were effectively using social media at the end of 2010 and 82 percent of businesses say they aim to more carefully monitor social media mentions in an effort to assess ROI in 2011.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.