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More–But Not All–Small Business Owners are Using Social Media

Just as you’d expect with any new type of technology, social media has been a tool that small business owners have slowly adopted over the past several years. While the numbers haven’t spiked up, they are steadily rising, according to the 2012 Small and Medium Social Business Study conducted by the SMB Group.

Once small businesses realize the value in using sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google + to find new prospects and build relationships with existing clients, it seem like adoption increases. I imagine they also follow suit to what big business is doing, budget allowing.

But that’s not all small businesses. A full 47%, according to the study, aren’t using social media currently. That’s a number I expect to shrink in coming years, but by how much, well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Overall, social media use by small businesses rose 9% from 2011 to 2012. The biggest slice of that was of businesses that use it in an “ad hoc manner,” without an appropriate strategy in place. This is to their detriment. Social media is an effective tool–if used appropriately.

Building a Social Media Strategy…or Not
If you don’t have a social media strategy in place, you might be better off not using it at all. Wasting time or resources without an end goal in mind just gets you spinning your wheels and getting frustrated.

Social media is great for building your brand and interacting with customers and contacts. It’s not going to get you instant sales or a million-person spike in web traffic. But it will give customers another channel (or three) to connect with you, and that helps you stay on top of their minds.

Once you have a strategy, you can determine how you will implement it. Social media can be used for so many things:

  • Responding to customer service inquiries
  • Conducting market research
  • Keeping your followers up to date on your company
  • Build trust with customers
  • Generate leads and sales
  • Monitor your online reputation

Don’t be afraid to try several of these, but do have a strategy for each one. And give it time. Social media uses the snowball effect: it takes a while to build, but once it’s rolling, it’s bigger and more successful.

If you’re considering diving into social media, be honest with yourself: do you truly have the dedication to start using it effectively and build out a strategy, or are you just suffering from “me too” syndrome? If it’s the latter, wait until you’re ready and can fully dedicate yourself or other resources to using social media effectively.

Anita Campbell

Anita Campbell

Widely considered a “small business expert,” Anita Campbell serves as CEO of Small Business Trends LLC and Anita Campbell Associates Ltd, a woman-owned consulting firm helping companies and organizations reach the small business market. As Publisher of several online media properties and syndicated content, Anita reaches over 1,000,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs annually. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Small Business Trends, an award-winning online publication. She hosts Small Business Trends Radio, where she interviews other small business experts. She also publishes Selling to Small Businesses. Anita was a contributing expert source to the Intuit Future of Small Business Report. She is a part-time instructor at the University of Akron. Anita’s expertise is often sought by the media. She is quoted in places such as the New York Times, Fortune and USA Today, all the way to publications of companies such as IBM, American Express and Merrill Lynch.

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  1. Brilliant post Anita…of course. I’m so surprised at the percentages of small businesses that aren’t using it yet – especially those that say they aren’t going to in the next 12 months. They must be living in the Dark Ages as Social Media is where most of their customers are nowadays. But definitely get a strategy in place before jumping straight in or can do more harm than good. This is the bit where I normally say “thanks for sharing on Bizsugar.com” :)

  2. Anita

    I like your advice about having a social media strategy and giving it time to work. Social media is a double edge sword. If you have not thought through it and do not pay time and attention it needs it can backfire and hurt you.

    I have also found most small business owners expecting instant results from social media. It takes a long time to nurture your brand / company in social media and get the results. Don’t expect immediate sales boost just by having a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

    • Very true, Harry, about taking time to see results.

      The tricky part is just sticking with it. Most people don’t recognize that in some senses social media presents an example of exponential growth. With exponential growth, things always look like they are moving slowly in the beginning. But if you stick with it, at some point the “hockey stick” spike kicks in. The more you tweet or share, the more chances for others to see your brand and be exposed to your content. Then those others start sharing and exposing YOUR brand. Then THEIR network connections do the same. The more you reach, the more your message extends.

      - Anita

  3. Hi Sian, One thing it says to me is that social media has become complex. I think the complexity is a key factor that depresses usage. It’s also a reason for the low number using social media as part of a strategic plan — because even when using social media, too many are doing it informally and not as deliberately as they could/should.

    There are so many social choices today, and the social sites keep changing and developing rules that take time to learn. If you want to master a social media site, you need to devote time just to the learning curve. And time is what most small businesses are in short supply of.

    - Anita

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