A survey from Constant Contact found that social media marketing has surged to be a top contender in small businesses' marketing tool kit; 73 percent of small businesses report using social media to market their business, and this appears to be a growing trend. Of those who are not currently using social media marketing, 62 percent expect to begin using social media marketing in the coming year. Further, 81 percent of those currently using social media marketing expect to increase their efforts this year.
The survey also found that small businesses still rely heavily on email, Website and event marketing, as well as advertising, to drive business. Despite feeling generally positive about 2011 revenues, small businesses reported business and financial challenges, including attracting new customers, getting current customers to refer business and having the cash flow to run their business effectively.
Of those doing social media marketing, 80 percent reported increasing their use in the past year. Among social media tools, Facebook is the tool of choice for small businesses: 95 percent of those using social media marketing reported using the tool and 82 percent of those found it to be effective. Of note, in Constant Contact's October 2010 survey, only 63 percent reported that Facebook was an important tool for marketing their business, and in April 2010, only 51 percent reported the same thing.
Small businesses found varying degrees of success with other social media marketing tools. Forty-seven percent of those using Twitter found it effective, 47 percent of those using LinkedIn found it effective, and 73 percent of those using video sharing tools, like YouTube or Vimeo, found them effective.
"The value proposition that social media marketing offers to small business makes it a no brainer for time- and resource-starved small businesses. They simply need coaching and know-how to use those tools in the best way possible," said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact. "Our assessment of this data is that more education will only improve small businesses' results with social media marketing."
Respondents also reported that email is the first -- and most frequent -- tool that small businesses turn to when trying to connect with current and prospective customers. Eighty-three percent report that email is the first tool they check when going online for their business each day, and 72 percent check their email six or more times a day. In comparison, 13 percent check Facebook, 6 percent check news sites, and 4 percent check Twitter more than six times per day.
"We've seen our small business customers improve their results by integrating tools, such as email marketing with social media marketing," said Goodman. "Email is still the most obvious choice to make sure your message gets out, and social media puts that message in front of a wider audience. We like to say that email lights the fire, while social media fans the flames."
With social media efforts growing, there has been no decline in the use of other marketing tools. The survey found that 91 percent of small businesses use email marketing, 95 percent use Website marketing, 77 percent use print advertising, 69 percent use online advertising and 53 percent use event marketing. These findings suggest that social media marketing is complementary and additive, rather than a replacement to more "traditional" marketing methods.
Survey respondents also weighed in on their economic outlook. 2010 was a positive story, with 53 percent reporting an increase in revenues and another 24 percent reporting that revenues remained flat for the year. Further, small businesses appear confident that an economic recovery is here, with more than 80 percent reporting expectations that revenues will increase in 2011.
"Small businesses are a true indicator of the health of our economy. Their perception that revenues will rise this year is a great sign for economic recovery," said Goodman. "That said, they do have some challenges ahead of them. Our mission is to help small businesses overcome those challenges. Our interactions with more than 10,000 small businesses each and every day have allowed us to design our proven tools and unique education and personalized coaching to do just that."