Small Businesses Turn to Social Media for Holiday Shopping Season

An AmEx survey found 33 percent rely on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and others to promote Small Business Saturday to their customers.

Many small business owners say they'll be pulling out all the stops to get customers into stores during the critical holiday shopping season, according to the second annual Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, released by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express.

For many of the small business owners who are aware of Small Business Saturday, the day will be a part of their promotional calendar. Of those small business owners incorporating the event into their holiday plans, 70 percent say it will be helpful in attracting new customers.

Small Business Saturday, now in its fourth year, falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serves as the traditional kick off to the holiday season for independent retailers and restaurateurs.

Among those that plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday into their holiday promotions, 75 percent said the day would be more effective if communities participated together by hosting events, and 39 percent are planning to collaborate with other small businesses in a community event to promote Small Business Saturday.

In addition, 33 percent rely on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and others most to promote Small Business Saturday to their customers.

"Small-business owners are always looking for new ways to creatively promote their products and services—especially in a tough economy," NFIB president and CEO Dan Danner said in a statement. "Small Business Saturday is a reminder of how important the small-business sector is to our economy and why it's so important to shop small all year around."

Discounts continue to be the top incentive used to encourage consumers to shop at small businesses, but more business owners are planning to reward customers by offering them a free gift with purchase (33 percent, up from 20 percent in 2012).

The survey also revealed 67 percent of respondents are planning to offer discounts on specific items or general discounts on the day, while 36 percent will offer coupons for future offers or discounts. Nearly one-third (32 percent) said they are starting their holiday promotions earlier than last year, and 21 percent said they are planning to increase the number of employees working on Small Business Saturday.

In addition, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of local small business owners aware of Small Business Saturday said they make it a point to hire employees from their neighborhood.

The Small Business Saturday Insights survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 500 owners and managers of retail establishments with physical storefronts, kiosks and restaurants, bars and pubs that are not part of a franchise. In order to qualify, all establishments had to have fewer than 100 employees.