As a marketer turned technology CEO, I'm more convinced than ever before that small businesses need to leverage the power of social media to grow their business. But they need to do it in a smart, efficient way. So are they?
That's what my online marketing company, VerticalResponse, sought to find out. We asked 462 small businesses how much time and money they invest into social media, and announced the results this week.
According to the survey results, small businesses are:
Two-thirds said they're spending more time than last year. That's great, because it says they're seeing enough ROI to keep doing it.
Digging deeper, 37 percent of those who said they're CEOs or owners of their own companies spend six or more hours weekly on social media for their business. Wow! A third of them said they'd rather spend less time, suggesting they preferred focusing their time on other activities to grow their business. It sounds to me that they could use some strategies and tools to help them recoup some of that time.
Approximately 90 percent of the folks we surveyed are active on Facebook, and 70 percent on Twitter. In comparison, only 32 percent are on Google+ and 29 percent are on Pinterest. (LinkedIn straddles the middle, at 50 percent.)
While adoption of Google+ and Pinterest seems slow, it really depends on the industry. We found that 50 percent of companies/professionals in real estate are active on Pinterest; same goes for 42 percent of retail companies. These are industries that focus on pictures and visuals, so naturally they're gravitating toward Pinterest as a marketing tool.
We also asked small businesses to rank what types of social media activities took the most time. They said finding and posting content to their social networks was the most time-consuming, followed by: learning and education; analyzing their social media efforts; and following their competitors' activities. Answering questions posted on social media is the least time-consuming.
I can easily see how surfing the Web to find things to post sucks up time. You want to share content that's interesting, encourages engagement and relates to your business. One solution could be to set up RSS feeds from sites and blogs you like, so that whenever there's something new, it'll show up in your feed. You could also use a tool (like VerticalResponse Social) to get content from industry-specific sources and schedule when you want to share them.
Small businesses reported that their social media budgets are increasing at a faster rate than overall marketing budgets. So, if a small business is going to increase its budget, it will likely be for social media.
Additionally, 36 percent of those surveyed pay for a social media publishing or analytics tool; of those, 58 percent spend $26 or more every month for the tool. Small businesses are starting to put a real value on social media for growth. Good for them.
So what does this all tell me? It reminds me of the saying, "time is money." Being able to balance it all is still a bit of a challenge for some small businesses, especially the owner or solopreneur who's handling social media on top of all the other responsibilities of running a company. But small businesses definitely see that social media is a big opportunity to drive growth--and they're invested.
(BTW, go check out the full social media infographic, which has even more interesting data.)
Are you investing more time or money into your company's social media efforts? Are you seeing real business returns? Tell me in the comments.