Small businesses are getting better at using social media to meet marketing and customer goals. However, they struggle with figuring out a strategy and deploying social media in that strategy.
Fewer than one-quarter of small businesses (24%) use social media as part of a planned social media strategy. Another 29% use social media in an ad hoc way, suggesting that they are intrigued with social media but aren’t sure exactly how to make it work for them. That’s according to the 2012 Small and Medium Social Business Study conducted by the SMB Group earlier this year in 2012.
Even the informal ad-hoc users are more advanced than the 47% of small businesses that do not use social media at all. But that’s actually gotten better since 2011, when 56% were not using social media.
This data suggests (1) there’s interest in using social media, particularly as more small businesses hear use cases about social media and see their customers using it, but (2) businesses don’t know how to apply social media in a systematic planned way. Most likely they don’t have the time to investigate and learn all the social media sites, figure out how which are the best social venues for their business, and then tie techniques back to their business objectives — let alone measure it all.
Here is what you should do:
- If you operate or work in a small business and you have a social media strategy, take heart. You are ahead of the majority of your peers and possibly your competition. But what if your company is among the 29% using social media informally? You’re actually still better than almost half of your peers — because they are not yet using social media at all. Keep going and leverage this competitive advantage. Don’t fall behind now.
- For consultants, marketing agencies and technology companies, the low hanging fruit is that 29% already using social media informally. They are already at least partially convinced of the value of social media, and so are more likely than non-users to be willing to spend on consulting, services and tools to create and carry out a social media strategy. What the informal users need is a better roadmap of WHAT to do and HOW to do it — and WHY. Tools also help by giving them a framework for using social media in their daily business processes and lessening the manual work. In your marketing efforts, you may want to target these informal users with your messaging and offerings.
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I find that many of my clients don’t know what to say to their prospects. Not only do some of them find the technology intimidating, they also find the the initial marketing message to be intimidating. It’s interesting to watch the evolution of thinking…beyond traditional advertising, savvy business owners have to learn how to make a fan community around their businesses. A huge challenge that can be very rewarding.
The numbers are still dismaying, but I’m glad things are improving. I think small businesses dive into social media without realizing it’s important to have a strategy. Hopefully in a year the numbers will be better.
For many SMB owners it’s just one more thing on their already full plates. However, I’ve found that while helping my parents improve their online efforts it requires some reminding, support and positive reinforcement.
As a social media evangelist I great business opportunities out there! 🙂
Have you seen studies from other countries that are showing the same trend?
This is sadly not what we hoped to see at this point, but it is better than it was. I find the biggest problem for small business is their acceptance that it is part of best practices now as other things are to being successful and having an actual social media strategy. Two suggestions might be to get a referral for outsourcing it, or find someone inside the company that can do it and wants to.