Small and midsize businesses are finding value in adoption and use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but are also experiencing frustration as they try to overcome the challenges inherent in getting the most from their investment, according to a recent survey of 400 SMB decision makers by Vocus, a provider of cloud marketing software with a social media focus, and Duct Tape Marketing. Despite the challenges the survey indicates social media use among SMBs is here to stay, with 84 percent of respondents planning to increase their use of social media at least a little in the future.
The survey found 87 percent of SMBs said social media has been somewhat helpful or helped a great deal, with just 10 percent saying it had no effect. The most common use of social media is to share information, cited by 91 percent of respondents. Only 46 percent saw social media as a place to handle customer service issues. SMBs are also capturing a myriad of metrics to measure the results of their social media efforts. The measurement of increased traffic to a Website was the most commonly cited metric with 76 percent of SMBs measuring referral traffic from social platforms.
"Overall sentiment in this study is right on target and it's a very positive message," John Jantsch, marketing consultant and creator of Duct Tape Marketing, said in prepared remarks. "What I've been noticing more and more is there's finally this acceptance that social media not only isn't going away, it's an essential element of the marketing mix and the real challenge now is to figure out how to integrate it into the total online and offline marketing presence."
On the platform side, Facebook ranked as the top social site currently used by SMBs, but ranked second to last on future intent, which the report said suggests Facebook usage is at near saturation. Struggling rival Google+ proved to be the surprisingly robust platform for small businesses, with 44 percent of respondents saying they currently use Google's social network. It also topped the list in terms of future plans, tying with Instagram-recently bought by Facebook for a cool $1 billion-- at 14 percent.
More than one-third (36 percent) of SMBs surveyed said they spend a median amount of $845 a month on software tools for social media management â but 32 percent of that group also spends $1,000 or more per month, while 22 percent of SMBs said they use consultants to aid with their efforts. The report also noted 73 percent of SMBs have just added social media to the list of existing duties of marketing employees. Overall, more than three quarters (77 percent) of SMBs surveyed indicated social media makes up a quarter or more of their total marketing efforts.