Businesses Increasingly Using Social Networking, Study Finds

Cost-conscious business owners are turning to social networking sites such as Twitter to promote their businesses, a report from BIA/Kelsey finds.

According to a recent report, social media and networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn continue to attract interest from small and midsize businesses looking for a marketing boost. A BIA/Kelsey Local Commerce Monitor study found 9 percent of midmarket companies currently use Twitter to market their businesses. In addition, the study found 32 percent of SMBs indicated they plan to include social media in their marketing mix in the next 12 months by using a page on a social site such as Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace. Furthermore, 39 percent of SMBs plan to include customer ratings or reviews on their own Websites, and 31 percent plan to include links or ads placed on social sites or blogs.

The study revealed adoption of social media by SMBs is more prevalent among younger businesses. The percentage of SMBs by age of business currently using Twitter for promotion was found to be as follows: 16 percent of SMBs in business three years or less, 11 percent of SMBs in business four to six years, 6 percent of SMBs in business seven to 10 years and 2 percent of SMBs in business 11-plus years.

Steve Marshall, director of research and consulting for BIA/Kelsey, said social media is clearly gaining traction among SMB advertisers. "As local consumers increasingly gravitate to social networks, local businesses understand they need to be part of the conversation," he said. "This opens up a market opportunity for local media companies that offer products and services that enable local advertisers to easily integrate social media into their marketing efforts."

Local Commerce Monitor is BIA/Kelsey's annual tracking survey of SMBs, conducted with research partner ConStat since 1999. The survey measures where SMBs are spending their advertising and promotional budgets and how their media usage and spending habits are evolving. Local Commerce Monitor Wave XIII was conducted in August 2009 via an online survey of 1,092 SMBs, comprising a core sample of 302 SMBs, plus SMBs from three "super vertical" categories-home/trade services, professional services and financial services.

The survey comes on the heels of a report from Internet2Go analyst Greg Sterling, who recently conducted an online survey and found that 45 percent of 2,400 business respondents with fewer than 100 employees said they use Facebook and Twitter to promote their businesses. The survey targeted the most frequent content publishers who are members of local business social network MerchantCircle. Sterling also found that three-quarters of the businesses he spoke with go to local sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Local and CitySearch to see online reviews about their businesses. Most of these folks went to review Websites and conducted vanity searches on their business names.