Earlier this year, the University of Maryland researched social media efforts being made by small businesses. In early 2010, about 25% of small businesses said they were using social media. The most recent survey from Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland points to a stall in the number of small businesses that are turning to social media.
The percentage of small business engaged in social media has not increased and analysts believe it’s because expectations have somewhat outpaced accomplishments. For example, even though the overall percentages were not exceeding low, the following expectations of small business owners regarding social media were not met:
- Higher awareness of company in target market
- Attract new customers
- Improved collaboration with suppliers, partners, colleagues
But, there were two areas where accomplishments exceed expectations. Small business owners say that using social media has allowed them to stay engaged with current customers and it has improved internal collaboration efforts. This is an important strategy. By listening to your customers, and engaging them, your success for loyalty is increased. Even if the conversation is about criticism or other problem areas, the fact that you are engaging your customer is important. However, this does come with a cost.
While social media is increasingly being seen as a tool to manage customer loyalty as opposed to being a way to acquire new customers, small business owners still have concerns. Managers say this channel takes up more time than they had expected and as a result, it costs more than they had imagined. From a small business strategy, Social media isn’t free. It takes an effort of planning and personnel to effectively use it. Social Media needs to become part of your overall marketing effort.
Small businesses will continue to explore the benefits and drawbacks of social media. This current survey indicates they will proceed cautiously. We encourage our clients to prepare a plan that includes listening first-then engage when they have the resources to properly respond. We’d be happy to help you in your social media strategy in any way we can.