What's holding them back is a sense of overload, in particular, fear of the resources required.
While they use social media
personally and believe it affects their businesses, the majority of small-business
owners don't know how to use the new networks to build their companies,
according to a social media study of small businesses released by Social
Strategy1, which mines social media for business intelligence, and OfficeArrow,
an online information network of 350,000 small and midsize businesses. What's
more, most don't plan on investing online until they understand the practices
Nearly three quarters (73
percent) of small-business owners said they access social networks on
smartphones or other mobile devices, yet 67 percent are holding back investing
in social media because they don't know where to begin. What's holding them
back is a sense of overload, in particular, fear of the resources required to
meet the expectations of social media users.
Specifically, 51 percent
said they fear sharing sensitive information, 50 percent said there's too much
social media to manage and 44 percent said they fear "information overload."
The study engaged 343 small-business executives, predominantly from companies
with fewer than 10 employees, via email and Website surveys. All are members of
the OfficeArrow network.
"Small businesses need
a playbook to proceed in social media," said Steve Ennen, president and
chief intelligence officer for Social Strategy1. "Entrepreneurs are the
heart and soul of the American economy. Preparing them to capitalize on the
business opportunities social media can create should be a top priority."
The solution, says Ennen, is
to treat social media as a platform for listening, not talking. Among the 41
percent of small businesses taking any social media action, the focus is
solidly on promoting to increase brand awareness. However, 60 percent say they
do want to use social media as an information source; they just don't know how.
Ennen said there are three
basic steps small businesses should take when delving into the world of social
media, starting with finding the businesses customers online. "There's a world
beyond Facebook and Twitter online, where people bare their feelings
instantaneously," he explained. "Identify the places where customers are
commenting, linking and sharing content."
Businesses should also
establish feeds to extract relevant insights continually and emphasize customer
service. It's possible do more for less through online customer service, Ennen
said, such as cataloging what people like, trust, dislike and distrust, about
the company, competitors and category. He recommends pinpointing the key
dissatisfactions and considering ways to automate tasks for customers. Then,
using that data, communicate with them in meaningful ways.
"The most important
resource is a specialist in monitoring social media," said Ennen.
"Small businesses need to focus resources on customer action, and
monitoring professionals combine the technology and analysis to show what
actions are profitable."
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.