Small businesses skeptical about Twitter's usefulness

Almost 60 percent of small business owners surveyed by The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International believe in social media, but LinkedIn is their preferred tool.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Social media is often held up as a potentially invaluable tool for small businesses seeking to extend their marketing reach and (by extension) sales growth.

In fact, six out of 10 owners believe this is so, according to a recent survey of 835 of them, conducted by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Vistage International.

But their choice of the most effective tool for building visibility is different than what you might expect: 41 percent of the respondents point to LinkedIn as the most "potentially beneficial" for their company, while 16 percent chose the YouTube video service, and 14 percent went with Facebook. Just 3 percent named Twitter, according to the survey results.

Those figures do not correspond with which tools the surveyed small business owners are actually using. If you look at that data (below), Twitter actually shows up as the third most frequently used social media tool.

Image: The Wall Street Journal

In short, although more small businesses are exploring Twitter, they haven't actually figured out how to make it useful yet. "On Twitter, you can't engage in a meaningful way," Todd Demann, founder of Los Angeles-based Freshology, told WSJ.

I also think the results have something to do with the way the question was worded. For many small businesses, LinkedIn is far more than a marketing tool. It's a place to recruit, get advice, participate in entrepreneur communities, and so on. In contrast, Twitter is seen as little more than a surveillance tool. At least for now.

Editorial standards