Social Media on the Rise for Small Businesses
Social media adoption by small business owners is on the rise. From a year ago, twice as many small businesses (24 percent) are now using social media tactics, according to the Small Business Success Index (SBSI), created by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
- 75 percent have a company page on a social networking site such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
- 69 percent post status updates and/or articles of interest on social networking sites.
- 61 percent use social media for identifying and attracting new customers.
- 57 percent build networks through such sites.
- 45 percent expect social media to be profitable in the next 12 months.
Top Social Media Challenges for Small Businesses
Half of the small business social media users in the SBSI said social media takes more time than expected. The time commitment may explain, for companies active in social media, why only 39 percent have a blog on areas of expertise, only 26 percent tweet about an area of expertise and only 16 percent use Twitter as a customer service channel.
“Of course, as with anything it’s not all party hats and celebration,” said Frank Reed, the owner of FT Internet Marketing Inc., in his article for Marketing Pilgrim, Small Business Starting to Use Social Media Successfully. “SMBs struggle with some of the downsides of the social media ‘effect’ because they are often not able to spread the work out over other team members because they may not have them.”
New Ways to Engage with Customers
Still, engaging online with consumers continues to be a focus for many small business owners. While e-mail marketing continues to be the most popular marketing channel for small businesses, new media channels are gaining acceptance, according to a November 2009 forecast from Ad-ology Research.
“Small business owners understand that the marketing landscape is changing and they need to connect with consumers in new ways,” says C. Lee Smith, president and CEO of Ad-ology Research, in the company’s forecast release. “They’re still using traditional media, but they’re embracing these emerging types as a way to take their businesses to the next level.”
Among the respondents who said social media is “very or somewhat beneficial” to business, most ranked Facebook as the most beneficial social media site, according to MarketingProfs, which reported on the findings from Ad-ology Research:
- Facebook (33 percent).
- LinkedIn (21 percent).
- Twitter (19 percent).
- MySpace (17 percent).
- YouTube (15 percent).
Among the top reasons for using social networking:
- Generating leads (50 percent).
- Keeping up with the industry (45 percent).
- Monitoring online conversations (44 percent).
“While it is never the silver bullet or the ‘automatic win’ that many SMB social media hucksters proclaim it to be there is a lot of opportunity for the SMB to be promoting their business and finding more business than ever before,” Reed writes. “The odds are not stacked against the SMB in social media as they can be with other marketing options but the old adage ‘you gotta be in it to win it’ is more real than ever.”
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