Ad-ology Study Reveals SMB’s Social Media Usage

After yesterday’s post showing how the most common social media strategies are not always the most effective, David Wilson provided me with another interesting report on SMB owners and social media usage. More specifically, David pointed me to an Ad-ology study called the Small Business Marketing Forecast 2010 that was published last month. The report interviewed 1,000 small business owners with fewer than 100 employees and asked them about their attitudes and marketing plans for the coming year.

Here are some noteworthy findings from the study:

  • 31 percent say they don’t use social media because their customers don’t use social media.
  • 29 percent say they don’t have the time or staff available to do it properly
  • 52 percent of small business owners surveyed plan to devote more resources to cause marketing in 2010. [Huzzah!]

While that last statistic is promising, the first two are a bit scary, and show that perhaps SMB owners are a little behind the curve in their understanding of social media. Let’s break them down.

Our Customers Don’t Use Social Media

Do your customers use the Web? Because if they do, then they’re using social media.

  • Every time one of your customers does a search and finds your Yelp listing – that’s social media.
  • When they use Twitter or Facebook to pass on information or simply chat with friends and family – that’s social media.
  • When they open up Flickr to scout out possible wedding or hiking locations – that’s social media.
  • When they turn to LinkedIn Answers or Business Answers to seek help on a problem – that’s social media.

And if your customers are using these sources, then you need to be aware of that. Truthfully, it’s becoming harder to say that your customers aren’t on social media because social media is, quite simply, everywhere. And its integration has become so seamless that sometimes customers don’t even realize they’re on it. But they are. And you have to account for that in our marketing efforts. The excuse that “our customers aren’t there” isn’t viable anymore.

We Don’t Have Time For Social Media

Nearly 30 percent of people surveyed said the reason they’re not participating in social media is because they don’t have the time or staff to do it properly. Here’s the thing: When you break it down, social media is really nothing more than exemplary customer service. As a small business owner, you’re already notoriously AWESOME at doing this. It’s about answering questions, making things right, and going out of your way in all the little areas. You’ve got that! Sure, the tools are different and there’s a time investment in learning them, but once you do have them – there really isn’t an increased time investment. In fact, you may find you’re making up time by answering questions via a quick tweet rather than a 10 minute phone call. Social media can actually make CSR a lot more manageable by automating it to some degree with things like social media tools and quick buzz stations.

I’m glad the study showed such great growth in the number of SMB owners who will be getting involved in social media this year, because the opportunities are there. If you’ve been holding back because you’re worried that your customers aren’t there, they are. And if it’s a resource issue, then combat the overload by learning how to get more and make social media useful. Social media really is about creating good consumer experiences with your product. And as a rockin’ small business owner, you’ve been doing that better than anyone for years. The only difference is that now there’s tool to help you connect on a much larger scale.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

6 Reactions
  1. Social media has been tightly woven into the entire internet experience. Even emails are becoming social with the ubiquitous “Forward to a Friend” buttons being included in more and more emails. People have always talked and shared with other people in real life. Social media just allows them to do it online in a very similar fashion.

  2. It is tough to figure out the “chicken and egg” dilemma for the “31 percent” that “say they don’t use social media because their customers don’t use social media”… 😉 I have heard the first two statements from several individuals during my courses, workshops and speaking engagements on social media.

  3. It takes time and patience to succeed with social media and will result in high returns with improved Customer rating over the long term.
    Social media usage will continue to increase overtime, and the customers that haven’t already used it soon will.
    Now is the perfect time to go with the flow.

  4. Small businesses are overwhelmed with information about social media and are somewhat confused about how to get started and what to prioritize. Add to that they don’t have the time to figure it out or implement a social media program properly. They simply need education and a proven system to follow with tools for outsourcing and work flow so this can work for them. Oh, and the focus needs to be on lead generation b/c that is what they are most focused on right now.

    Great post Lisa!

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