Although adoption rates are on the rise, SMBs still face significant obstacles in more strategic implementations of social media.
While the overall use of social media has risen year-over-year to 53 percent from 44 percent among small businesses (with 1 to 99 employees) and grown to 63 percent from 52 percent among midsize businesses (100 to 999 employees), the gap is widening between small and midsize businesses that are using social media in an informal, ad hoc manner and those taking a more planned, strategic approach, according to the SMB Group's latest report, "2012 Small and Medium Social Business Study," developed in partnership with CRM Essentials.
The study also found 35 percent of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) using social media in 2012 indicated that they have used social media to displace or use in addition to other tools, including direct mail, newspapers/business trade journals/magazines, yellow pages and email marketing. According to the survey, the top reasons that drive SMBs to adopt social media continue to center on sales and marketing goals. However, SMBs taking a more ad hoc approach to social media deployment are more skeptical about the results than are midmarket companies that use social media strategically. The survey found SMBs that use social media as part of a planned corporate approach are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to anticipate revenue growth than ad hoc users.
"The needle for SMBs using social media as part of a planned, corporate strategy has barely moved at all," Sanjeev Aggarwal, SMB Group founder and partner, said in a press statement. "More SMBs are using social media, but they lack the solutions, expertise and guidance to integrate them with other business processes and use them more effectively in their businesses. SMBs need education, guidance and solutions that take time, labor and confusion out of building a structured social media process."
The report also suggested the role of social media remains limited in the SMB market space, with only a small percentage using social media for non-sales and marketing functions, such as human resources, customer service and product development. Adoption of social media was less influenced by company size or a company's primary type of customer and more by the age of the decision maker and the type of business and the industry.
Although adoption rates are on the rise, SMBs still face significant obstacles to more strategic implementation of social media, including lack of time, an inability to measure value, difficulty integrating social media with other business activities and a lack of budget. The report also noted that while SMB adoption of social media continues apace, median spending for both small and midsize companies has remained the same as in 2011.
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.