More Small Businesses Eyeing Social Media

By Lance Whitney April 15, 2011

Do you tap into social networks at your company? According to a recent study by research firm Techaisle, a majority of small firms plan to use social media, though almost half of them aren’t sure yet how such tools can actually help their business.

Among the 406 small businesses in the U.S. recently polled by Techaisle, almost 40 percent said they’re very likely to adopt the use of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Another 30 percent said they’re somewhat likely. But 45 percent of those eyeing social media are a bit fuzzy on exactly how they think it will benefit the business.

Among the companies that already use social media, “increasing awareness of the business” was the top reason given for climbing onto the social media bandwagon, followed by “increasing the number of inquiries or leads for product or service information.” Other reasons cited included “increasing referrals from existing customers,” “improving your company’s image with customers,” and “improving customer satisfaction with your product or service.”

Interestingly enough, “increasing business revenue” was also on the list of reasons. Though it was cited by 68 percent of those surveyed, it was last on the list. That may be a sign that some companies don’t see a direct benefit to sales from using social media.

Which social media tools are small businesses using? Facebook was at the head of the list, followed closely by LinkedIn. Facebook Events, the feature that lets firms promote upcoming events, was third. Other tools cited included blogs, ads on social media sites, Twitter, and finally MySpace.

I found it interesting that Twitter was so low on the list. To me, Twitter is an ideal tool for promoting a business as it’s quick and simple to maintain, unlike a Facebook account or Website. And you can easily link back to your Website or other content through a tweet. But from my interactions with business owners, I get the impression that many don’t quite understand Twitter or realize how to tap into it.

The survey also found many business owners who have no interest in jumping into the world of social media. Those holdouts cited such reasons as “our business is not suited for such technologies” and “we are not sure how these technologies would help our business.” Some also said their customers don’t use social media tools.

In place of or in addition to their social networking activities, most of the companies surveyed said they do have a Website with their own branded domain name. And the people polled said that both social media and Websites are equally effective at creating awareness. But they pointed to their Websites as more effective at generating sales.

Surveys like this tell me that social media is still in its nascent stage as a business tool, certainly among small companies. Though most seem to have gotten the message that social networks can be an effective way to promote themselves, many don’t yet see the direct business value. Some of the onus is on outlets like Facebook and Twitter to better explain to the business community the direct benefits of social media. But ultimately, it’s up the business owners themselves to give these tools a chance and see if social media can provide a boost to the bottom line.

Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance's articles, please visit his columnist page

Edited by Rich Steeves

Journalist, IT Consultant, Web Developer

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