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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 [1] 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 [2] and its new features. The early adoption of Groupon becomes even more interesting after yesterday’s post about the forthcoming Google Offers [3]. 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:

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.