Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Social Media for Small Business

Are small businesses immune to the hype of social media?

As with every new technology, there is an adoption curve that influences the penetration of social media into business. A new technology starts with the most innovative individuals in the most innovative industry and works its way through the ecosystem until the most conservative individuals in the most conservative industry adopt it. The commonly accepted stages of adoption are:
  • innovators
  • early adopters
  • early majority
  • late majority
  • laggards
It isn't a groundbreaking observation to point out that innovators have completely adopted social media as a medium of communications. Indeed, for many of our clients, the early adopters and even the early majority, are moving beyond test or pilot social media programs and are starting to integrate social media into their overall sales, marketing, HR, customer service and investor relations strategies. This evolution is made easier by the fact that Strategic's clients are generally well funded companies in the healthcare and technology space- both traditionally innovative areas.

It's important to note, however, when areas are lagging behind, for whatever reasons.

With this in mind, I found a new blog post by Jack Loechner (Center for Media Research) to be very interesting. He reviews a new survey by Citibank of 500 small businesses and their experiences with social media. You can read his whole post here:


76% have not found social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be helpful in generating business leads or for expanding their business during the last year, while 86% say they have not used social networking sites to get business advice or information.

The survey found that general search engine sites such as Google and Yahoo! trump small business-focused sites and the WSJ.com as destinations for small business owners to seek business advice or information. 61% of respondents say they rely on these search engine sites.

Lead Generation by Social Networks (% of Respondents, August 2009)
Small Business Execs Who Say

Social networks are:
  • Very helpful- 3%
  • Somewhat helpful-9
  • Not very helpful- 13
  • Not at all helpful- 63
  • Don't know/na- 11

Source: Citibank omnibus poll by Gfk Roper, October 2009

Maria Veltre, Executive Vice President of Citi's Small Business Segment, concludes "... small business owners are still feeling their way into social media... many... may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them."

Additional responses found that 42% of small business owners and managers reported that in the past year they have made greater use of their company's website to generate business leads and sales. Among companies with 20 to 99 employees the percentage rises, with 57% saying they have made greater use of their website. 28% of survey respondents are also using email marketing and 25% are using online advertising to generate business leads and sales.


It's clear that the adoption rates among small business owners and executives is low, but is probably growing. As a marketer for a small business, I can tell you that we think of social media from the outset when designing our integrated sales, marketing and PR plans. This is a function of "going where are customers are." As more and more small business owners realize that their customers are on social networks, the more we'll see these adoption rates go up.
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