Which Social Media Sites Are Most Beneficial?

Coming into the New Year, we saw lots of reports that small business owners would be upping their social media spend in 2011. Reports suggested perhaps the “experimentation” days of social media were over and that businesses were beginning to treat it like a real marketing channel, with dedicated resources. To give us some insight into how small businesses are using the medium and where they’re finding success, eMarketer recently highlighted an Adology survey of 752 SMBs that showed which sites were working best and what businesses were getting out of them.

What social media sites were voted very or somewhat beneficial to SMBs? Turns out it’s all the usual suspects:

While it’s no surprise to see Facebook and Twitter taking top prizes with 55 percent and 32 percent, respectively, I was surprised to see YouTube beat out the more SMB-friendly Yelp, which came in below even MySpace and Groupon. While I’d love to think it’s an indicator that more small business owners are getting friendly with online video, I’m more inclined to believe that SMBs still aren’t fully taking advantage of Yelp and its new features. The early adoption of Groupon becomes even more interesting after yesterday’s post about the forthcoming Google Offers. Maybe Google got these stats earlier than the rest of us. 😉

But knowing what sites SMBs find most beneficial is only half the story. We also have to look at how they’re using the sites. It was encouraging to see that lead generation was the top reported benefit of social media, noted by 57.2 percent. Nice to see that SMBs are finding a payday using these social channels. Also making the list:

  • Monitoring what’s being said about their business
  • Keeping up with the industry
  • Improving customer experience
  • Competitive intelligence [looks like some people read my post on twit-stalking. 😉 ]

Curiously absent from the list: branding and building awareness. Not sure if it simply isn’t a large enough goal for small business owners or if it’s lumped into monitoring mentions. Either way, as a small business, I’d have to think building awareness is one of the main goals for participating in these sites. For local companies with small marketing budgets, social media is a cost-effective way to get exposure, build recognition and connect with people in a scalable way.

Though a small sample size, I thought the report provided an interesting glimpse into how many small business owners may be looking at social media. How does the report match up with your own findings and experiences? Hopefully offering up some stats on how social media has been beneficial to SMBs will show naysayers there’s life in the water and entice them to give it a try. In 2011, if you’re not using social media to gain attention over your competitors, you can bet they’re using it to gain attention over you.


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.

22 Reactions
  1. MySpace made the list? And in the middle of the pack no less?

  2. I check http://grouponbot.com more often then I check groupon now.

  3. In The Solopreneur Life 2010 End-of-Year Survey that I conducted in December, respondents were asked which social media site had the highest ROI for their businesses. The results:

    32.6 said Facebook
    33.7 said Linked In
    33.7 said Twitter

  4. Interesting. I think one challenge is that most of the tools/services/sites listed here are constantly evolving, adding features and services. I agree survey participants may not be aware of newer offerings from these services. Moreover, these services offer competing overlapping services e.g. places. Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare and Google all have “Places.” Which one should a business use? Should the business use all four? Could become confusing.

  5. Thank you for the updated stats above, and for your research. I seem to get to busy to keep tabs on these numbers myself so thanks for SBT ! – Tim

  6. I have found twitter and linkedin to be much more beneficially then Facebook for my small business. Probably has to do with the type of business though.

  7. Lisa- Another good post. This was a surprise to me. I thought LinkedIn would do better than surveyed.

  8. Very interesting results. No shocks seeing Facebook, Twitter or YouTube up there, but it is interesting to see MySpace still hanging in and Yelp behind Groupon.

  9. Curious, indeed, that building awareness is not on the list. For nonprofits, which have much in common with small businesses (including small marketing budgets) building awareness is the number one use for social media. They seem to recognize that social media give organizations greater visibility in a larger market: It

  10. Online visibility should be a main reason small businesses use social media. It is fast becoming THE way people find anything they are looking for. Without a true online presence, small businesses will get left in the dust. Just saying!

  11. Surprised that myspace is quite high in percentage terms for SMB’s. On a general level it can only be a good thing that SMB’s are willing to put in the extra investment.

  12. I like LinkedIn as a way to learn about various business contacts, but found advertising on the site infuriating. Received no information, just weekly bills for no results. Then when I tried to call them to get more information about my account, received a voice answering system that said they would email you. Never could could communicate with anyone.

  13. I was surprised that Linked in hasn’t risen faster. I was even more surprised to see Groupon even in the running…I guess it means I have to go there and look around…Thank you for the in-tell.

  14. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Facebook inparticular, but Twitter as well are best for sharing a variety of content–bringing various tools, stories and posts together in a cohesive way for presentation. Which is often what companies miss. They see each tool as an individual appraoch instead of looking at how to connect them and tell one story.

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Shannon Steffen | Milwaukee SEO

    Lisa – I think one thing that’s missed is that not every social media network is right for every person or company. Depending on a person’s or company’s time, goals and personality, the best fit for their competitors may not be the best first for them. Couple that with varying demographics and the “norm” may just not fit.

  16. I agree very strongly with Shannon Steffen’s comment. I think it’s especially important to consider how these sites are to be used. Twitter, for example, can be very conversational; a “moral equivalent,” if you will, to comments on a blog post. FB, by comparison, seems most often used as an alternative to a “traditional” Web site, oriented towards those people who live in FB seemingly more than in real life. Their money spends just as well…

  17. Gotta go with the big four the others maybe better for true niche marketing.

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