Those that follow my blog know that small businesses are near and dear to my heart—more specifically, their feelings about and usage of social media. And, ofcourse, so is measurement/data.
Given this, I am happy to report that yet another study has been completed on the usage of social media by small businesses. According to research conducted by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, small-business adoption of social media marketing seems to have plateaued at 24% after experiencing double digit growth over the past few years. That said, small businesses are reaping the benefits of their efforts.
The study of US small businesses found that those that do market via social media primarily use Facebook (82%), and that the most common activities are maintaining a company page on a social network and posting status updates or links to interesting content. About half of businesses that used social media also monitored brand chatter on social networks.
While the performance of the social media channels they used didn’t always line up with their expectations, the performance of the social media tactics employed by small businesses was relatively effective; particularly as it relates to staying engaged with current customers (65%), increasing brand awareness among targeted audiences (64%), and identifying and attracting new customer (53%).
So what business objectives have small businesses achieved through social media? The usual:
- Connecting with customers through sites like Facebook and LinkedIn
- Increasing traffic to the company website through Facebook
- Increasing traffic to the company website through LinkedIn
- Increasing customers following the company on Twitter
While small businesses seemed to have been more successful in achieving relationship and brand building objectives through social media, about one-third have achieved sales leads through Facebook (36%) and LinkedIn (35%). Far fewer, only 16%, say they have achieved sales leads from Twitter.
While small businesses are achieving the benefits of social media, they are experiencing some of the downsides of being so visible—online criticism. The percentage of small businesses saying their business had been criticized online nearly doubled (to 29%) since December. That said, only 1% of small businesses said their image was hurt more than it was helped by social media, a decline from last year (6%).
While the percentage of small businesses using social media may have plateaued (for now), the report does show us that even small businesses are reaping the rewards of having a social media presence and strategy.