SMBs tell of social media paralysis

Two separate surveys about SMB social-media strategies point up ongoing angst over how much time should be invested participating in social platforms.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

More than three-quarters of small businesses keep up with social networks via some sort of mobile gadget of smart phone. But a good 67 percent of them don't know how to include them in their online marketing and sales plans.

Those findings are part of a new poll by Social Strategy 1, a social media consulting firm. The research reflects the opinions of 343 small-business executives who are part of the OfficeArrow network, a small-business online community.

It also dovetails nicely with a completely separate set of data conducted by iContact, which develops SMB social-media publishing applications and tools. iContact's survey actually found that one out of four small-business owners "hate" social media, with comments such as "it has nothing to do with the merit of the business, but who can manipulate the system" showing up in the responses.

The iContact poll reflects the opinions of 2,700 SMB owners.

On the bright side, 75 percent of the respondents said that they like social media.

Said iContact CEO Ryan Allis:

"We've seen email marketing make an incredible impact on our customers' businesses, and social media is growing so quickly it may soon eclipse email audiences, giving small businesses the power to sell and market their services in new, affordable, and viral ways."

If there is a common theme to both surveys, it is that small businesses are confused about how to use social media platforms and technologies.

For example, 50 percent of the Social Strategy1 poll respondents said there is too much social media to manage and 44 percent are leery of information overload.

Likewise, the iContact respondents were all over the map when it came to which social platforms are most effective.

Approximately 76 percent of them favored Facebook, although any businesses involved with financial services or insurance were less likely to feel the love. Smaller companies were especially conflicted about Twitter; those with fewer than 25 employees were more likely than others to "hate" the microblogging service.

For me, the ongoing angst among smaller businesses about social media is just a symptom of that group's historical reluctance to invest all that much in marketing. It is also clear that social media might, eventually, have the power to help overcome that reluctance.

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