A difficult economy has helped spur small businesses to adopt social media marketing in greater numbers, according to “The State of Small Business Report” from Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business. Social media usage increased to 24%, from 12% the year before.
The most common usage of social media among small business was a company page on a social networking site, followed by posting status updates.
Small businesses’ expectations of social media seem roughly to be in line with their experiences, although they are not quite as successful as they had hoped. Respondents’ top accomplishments were customer acquisition and placing their own businesses within the market, but did not meet expectations fully. Social media’s capabilities for staying engaged with consumers and collaborating with other businesses, however, were more in line with businesses’ expectations.
Most small businesses say they are just breaking even with their current usage of social media, but a solid one-fifth find it profitable already. Businesses are positive about the potential as well: Nearly one-half believe it will make them money in the next 12 months, and another 39% think they will break even on it. Just 9% think social marketing will continue to be a losing proposition.
Overall, 58% of respondents felt social media lived up to their expectations. One-half felt it took up more time than they realized, but only 6% claimed negative comments on social media had hurt their business.
“Social media levels the playing field for small businesses by helping them deliver customer service,” said Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service, in a statement. “Time spent on Twitter, Facebook and blogs is an investment in making it easier for small businesses to compete.”
Previous research on small businesses and social media use revealed a somewhat rocky relationship. A Citibank study indicated social media was not working well for small businesses’ lead gen efforts, but other data showed small companies would be upping spending in the channel.
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