For a majority of small business owners, social media sites aren’t just for catching up with high school friends or digesting the latest headlines. A recent survey from LinkedIn finds 80% of small business owners are turning to social media platforms to generate revenue and find new customers.

And the time and money spent on social media marketing may be paying off. The survey, conducted in November 2013 by LinkedIn and research firm TNS, finds that “hyper growth” businesses – those experiencing significant revenue growth over the last year – are spending more than their slower-growing peers on social media.

Seventy-three percent of high-performing small businesses say they increased spending on social media and social ads in the last year. In comparison, only 42% of small businesses experiencing no growth did the same.

The fast-growing small businesses report social media to be an effective marketing tool. Nine out of ten say their social media efforts help maintain a company presence and identity, while 82% say the platforms help generate new leads.  According to the survey, nearly two in three small businesses say finding new customers is their no. 1 challenge.

Using Social Media as an Education Tool

Aside from marketing purposes, small business owners say they are also using social media platforms as a research tool.

Forty-nine percent of respondents say they go to social media sites to learn from experts, get recommendations and get answers to business-related questions. For example, nearly eight in ten small business owners report finding industry-specific articles posted on social media sites to be valuable.

Entrepreneurs are also turning to peers on social media to educate themselves about financial companies and products. The survey finds that 68% of business owners are using social media for finance-related reasons. And after using social media for research, 37% of respondents report making a purchase decision.

The LinkedIn survey was based on a 20-minute online questionnaire. The survey polled 998 small and medium businesses with revenue between $1 million and $50 million.

Follow Gabrielle Karol on Twitter @GabrielleKarol