Small Businesses Wary of Social Media Investment

Nearly half (47 percent) of small businesses that see ROI on social media report receiving less than $100 each month, according to the Manta report.

manta and social media

More than half of small business owners (59 percent) don’t realize a positive return on their investment in social media, according to a survey of 540 small business owners conducted by Manta.

Facebook is the top choice for small business owners. Fifth-three percent of respondents ranked the social media giant as returning the most value to their business, up from 29 percent in 2013.

"Facebook has tremendous critical mass. The sheer magnitude of Facebook’s user community makes it one of the largest platforms for brand awareness," John Swanciger, Manta’s CEO, told eWEEK. "Facebook acts like a virtual community--it is already set up to reach target audiences. The simplicity of sharing, liking and commenting add a viral participation component allowing for exponential increases to awareness on well executed campaigns."

He noted that Facebook also offers a large suite of tools that make marketing easy for time-starved small business owners.

"New features such as a Facebook live support chat function will improve how businesses connect with their audiences," he said. "The result could be more direct return on investment for small businesses and more businesses migrating to Facebook as both a sales and support channel."

According to the survey, the value of other leading social networks for small businesses dropped significantly, with Google+ coming in second with 15 percent, followed by LinkedIn (11 percent).Twitter and Pinterest trailed behind at five and two percent.

Nearly half (47 percent) of small businesses that realize a positive ROI on social media report receiving less than $100 each month, and nearly half (49 percent) of small business owners said they are unwilling to spend money on social media promotion.

"One issue contributing to low ROI is that, for many small business owners, social media remains unfamiliar territory," Swanciger said. "Finding the right mix of platforms and content to reach your audience is time consuming. Many small business owners simply don’t have the time or resources to make a concerted effort to turn social engagement into sales."

The percentage of small business owners with plans to increase the time spent on social media has slowed to 34 percent, compared with 49 percent in 2013.

However, the survey also indicated small business owners continue setting social media goals, with new customer acquisition topping the list at 37 percent. This is followed by driving awareness of or marketing for their business at 17 percent, and generating leads or referrals at 15 percent.

"Creating positive brand awareness and fostering loyalty will remain important, but returns will likely increase as it becomes easier for small businesses to isolate and distribute content to appropriate audiences," Swanciger said. "We will see the perception of social media ROI go up as platforms simplify conversion tracking and audience targeting."