Well, this is a bit troubling.

A new survey conducted by industry group The Alternative Board (TAB) found that nearly two out of every three small business owners (or 59%) think social media is not that essential to business operations. It's an interesting result given how much social media has invaded every area of our lives. Tweets pop up during political debates, Facebook is now the official holder of all baby photos.

What's happening? It's obvious that many business owners have not quite embraced social media as a new form of marketing, a way to find new clients and customers, or a primary avenue for sharing content created to promote the corporate brand.

It also points to a perception about the value of social. Of those surveyed, 18% don't have a social media presence at all, and 67% are "newbies" and have beginner or intermediate users running campaigns. 22% of those surveyed said they only check social media once or twice per year. 64% said they check social once or twice per week. (The survey group is a mix of TAB members and non-members.)

It's also interesting how the survey participants ranked social media sites. Even though Facebook is by far the bigger footprint with 1.6 billion users (and a billion using the Messenger app), they ranked LinkedIn as the most effective (38%), then Facebook (at 32%), Google+ (at 17%), and Twitter (at 6%). LinkedIn is perceived as a business channel, but it's surprising they don't see Twitter as that useful.

"Business owners have trouble understanding the importance of social media because they don't understand the ways to monetize or measure the return on investment, or perhaps they previously invested a significant amount of time or money into the tactic and saw no return," says Jodie Shaw, the Chief Marketing Officer at TAB.

Why all of the confusion? My theory is that it is partly a technical problem and partly a business problem. From a technical standpoint, social media can be confusing or hard to understand at times. I've heard of people who don't know what to do on Twitter or why it even exists. Their thinking is woefully outdated--they think it's mainly for letting people know what you're doing during the day. They don't realize it's one of the best ways to share links to blogs and other content, or that it connects you to influencers. Twitter is, by far, the best way to discover daily news and trending topics.

In terms of the business side, they don't see how the investment will pay off. A glossy brochure is something you can hold in your hands, it has an ROI. Some businesses don't want to invest in something that's digital so they skip the entire process. There's a big investment required to hire social media managers, to train people in how to post regularly, and to purchase the social media management apps.

Yet, they want quick results without doing any of the hard work.

"In order to have real results with social media, you have to start with building a community, then a conversation," says Shaw. "From there, savvy social media marketers can drive referrals and leads. Many small business owners jump straight to lead generation without building a community and a conversation first."

What do you think? What's your theory about why so many small businesses are not jumping on the social media bandwagon after all of these years? 

Published on: Jul 26, 2016