Although small-business owners recognize the power of social media in engaging customers, most lack the expertise to apply the latest digital marketing tools to their companies, according to a survey conducted by office products giant Staples.
A large Facebook community of fans topped a small-business wish list of advertising tools, outranking such traditional marketing tools as a celebrity endorsement or a Super Bowl advertising spot. Facebook and LinkedIn, followed by Twitter, were the leading social media channels small-business owners used, according to the survey.
The most frequently mentioned goal for social media usage is engaging customers—cited by half of respondents—which edged out increasing sales (46 percent) and creating brand awareness (44 percent).
More than half (53 percent) of small-business owners said they are either novices or do not consider how social media can help their business, 40 percent of small businesses feel that their social media channel use has helped their business, and 61 percent of small businesses use at least one social media channel.
To help make digital media easier for small businesses, Staples, in tandem with releasing the survey results, launched the Push It Forward contest, which will award three winning small businesses with $50,000 each in digital marketing funds. The grand-prize winner will receive paid digital marketing services, including assistance from a digital marketing agency; a free, one-year account with an online marketing specialist; and a one-hour one-on-one session with a small-business expert.
Companies can enter to win the contest by submitting a 75-word essay on the contest site that answers the question: "What would a $50,000 digital marketing push from Staples mean for your small business?" Of the submissions, three small-business grand-prize winners will be selected by Staples, Strauss and consumer votes to receive the money.
Other surveys suggest small businesses are already becoming more proficient with their social media strategies. An increasing number of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are getting the hang of social media marketing and taking an "independent and resourceful" approach to learning more about social media, according to a Manta survey of more than 1,200 small-business owners in the United States.
However, small businesses are also encountering obstacles along the way, with 18 percent of SMBs reporting Facebook is the most difficult platform to maintain, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter. Small-business owners are also in need of business-focused platforms to help them connect with prospects and peers. The report revealed 36 percent of SMBs indicate the primary goal of using social media is to acquire and engage with new customers.