A new study shows a sharp increase in the number of small firms on social media--and highlights pain points and favorite tools.
It was only about a year ago that a Hiscox study found only 12% of small business owners "described social media promotion as a must and nearly 50% weren't using social media at all."
Oh, how times change.
A newly released study by Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing now finds that for 77% of small and medium-size businesses (or SMBs), social media accounts for 25% or more of total marketing efforts.
That change may explain another data point: A May 2012 study by Constant Contact found that social media is the No. 1 marketing activity that small businesses need help with. (Survey respondents also said that social media was the fourth most effective marketing activity for their organizations, with Facebook as the most effective tool.)
The new Vocus/Duct Tape research offered some other, deeper findings about smaller firms and social media. For example:
Here is what business owners believe about social media:
Value: 58% of respondents said that social media was somewhat helpful to their organization but that it's hard work--you get out of it what you put into it.
Size matters: 40% of prefer a smaller but highly engaged audience; 27% would prefer a huge following with little engagement. Also, the larger the organization, the greater the role of social media in their marketing mix.)
Cost matters: The perception that social media is "free" is the most prominent barrier to SMBs use of social media.
A few interesting nuggets emerged in the way small firms are using social media.
Which platform? Facebook still garners top honors with 73% of SMB usage, but the study makes the interesting claim that just 7% plan to use it in the future--migrating instead to Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Tools & teams: On average, SMBs use three different software tools to manage social media and spend $845 per month doing so. To execute social media, most SMBs just add to the plate of an existing marketing person/team.
Sector differences: SMBs use social media differently and with different expectations depending on their sector (business-to-business wants higher engagement; consumer-facing firms want broader audience, etc.). Most use it first to share company news.
The Vocus/Duct Tape Marketing study concludes that 84% of SMBs plan to increase their spend on social media, mainly because 78% said social media "has helped a great deal."
In addition to investing more in social media, future plans include using more social media sites, sharing more, engaging more, hiring more help and spending more time on and in social media.
Do your social media plans differ from this study's findings? Share your thoughts by commenting below.
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases