Social Media Marketing Grows Among Small Businesses

By Nathan Eddy  |  Posted 2011-11-16

Social Media Marketing Grows Among Small Businesses

Small businesses are becoming more comfortable with social media marketing and are using it more when engaging with customers, according to survey data from marketing specialist Constant Contact. The Fall 2011 Attitudes and Outlook Survey also reports that small businesses still rely heavily on in-person interactions and events in addition to email marketing and Website marketing to reach their customers, while mobile adoption remains slow.

In just six months, the survey of small businesses using online marketing tools revealed a significant reduction in perceived barriers to adoption of social media marketing among small business survey participants. The survey found increased awareness that social media marketing need not be time-consuming or difficult--clear barriers to adoption reported in Constant Contact's Spring 2011 study.

When asked why they use social media marketing today, 83 percent said it is low cost (up from 72 percent in the spring 2011 study), 67 percent said it is easy to use (up from 54 percent in the spring 2011 study), 51 percent said their customers use social media channels (up from 38 percent in the spring 2011 study) and 45 percent said it didn't take a lot of time (up from 31 percent in the spring 2011).

The survey also indicated small businesses are allocating more time to social media marketing to engage their targets. A full 81 percent reported using social media to market their businesses, up from 73 percent in the spring of 2011. Of those using social media marketing, Facebook continues to be the tool of choice for small businesses, with 96 percent reporting using the tool. Twitter is quickly gaining ground; usage surged in the last six months, from 60 percent in spring 2011 to 76 percent today.

Effectiveness scores also improved across certain key social media marketing channels in just six months, with 60 percent of those using Twitter finding it effective for marketing their business, up from 47 percent in spring 2011. More than half (55 percent) found LinkedIn effective, up from 47 percent in spring 2011 and 86 percent found Facebook effective, up from 82 percent in spring 2011. The survey found effectiveness scores remained flat for review sites, video sharing and location-based services, and decreased for photo sharing and MySpace.

"Small business are still learning how social media marketing can help them grow their customer relationships," said Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at Constant Contact. "Just six months ago, they were learning the ropes and finding out what social media marketing tools were available. Now, they are beginning to understand more about what social media marketing can do for them."

One common gripe from consumers is feeling "heard" on social media platforms--and the majority of small businesses seem to understand that. The survey found that roughly 60 percent of small businesses respond to all comments on social media platforms, whether those posts are positive or negative. Those who don't respond report that they don't have time, they don't think it's necessary, or they don't know what to say.

"Plain and simple, customers want small businesses to interact with them, whether that's on email or via their social media platform of choice, be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn," Schmulen said. "The great news for small businesses is that they already know all about providing a great customer experience, and they are showing that they can carry that over to the world of social media. It's a great example of how small businesses are taking advantage of their smaller scale to make a huge impact with these tools."

Social Media Marketing Grows Among Small Businesses

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Although social media marketing efforts are growing, it is not at the expense of other marketing efforts; in fact, 65 percent report that social media tools complement other forms of marketing. The survey also found that 95 percent of participants use email marketing, 98 percent use Websites, 71 percent use print advertising, 66 percent use online advertising, and 55 percent use event marketing.

While online tools are clear time- and resource-savers for maxed-out small businesses, those same small businesses continue to voice the importance of face-to-face interactions. The survey found 81 percent of the survey respondents report using face-to-face interactions to connect with current or prospective customers. Further, 62 percent plan to host an event in the next twelve months to accomplish that goal and 69 percent see events as an effective way to introduce consumers to their products and services. In addition, 68 percent see events as an effective way to find new customers.

"Small businesses want to have face-to-face interactions with customers and prospects, and event marketing has quickly become a go-to strategy for small businesses who want to connect in person with their current or prospective customers--but need an efficient way to get the work of an event done," said Chris Litster, vice president and general manager of event marketing for Constant Contact. "Events offer small businesses a great way to take a relationship that may have started via email marketing and use an in-person connection to build it into a long-lasting relationship."

One platform that small businesses have not yet incorporated into their integrated marketing program is mobile: A full 72 percent of respondents report that they don't incorporate mobile into their marketing campaigns, and only 13 percent have created a mobile-friendly Website.

The Constant Contact-sponsored survey was administered in October 2011 to small business owners and employees. Results include responses from 1,972 respondents across a range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries. Of the respondents, 87 percent of are located in the United States and 81 percent of these organizations have 25 or fewer employees.

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