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Is Small Business Happy With Its Social Media Results?

So as I’ve been trying to do a “Big Business Social Media” deck, the news is full of a study that seems to show that small business doesn’t use social media very much and doesn’t much like what it uses.

I’m shocked, just shocked (not really). Actually, it kind of confirms what I’ve been seeing in talking to small business owners out in the wild.

Here’s the lede (sorry, the study doesn’t seem to be available; I’m just piecing together clips about it from press releases and blog posts):

Sites like Facebook and Twitter have taken off among individuals for personal use. But what about the use of social networking at small businesses?

A survey commissioned by Citibank and conducted by GfK Roper found that some small businesses see little reason to hop onto the social-network bandwagon.

Based on interviews in late August with 500 executives running businesses with fewer than 100 employees, the survey said that 76 percent of them found sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to be of little help in finding new business leads. Further, 86 percent of those questioned have not used social-networking sites to look for business advice or information.

(from cNET)

Here are the numbers:


Now you can’t tell from this how many are using social media and not finding it helpful (we can assume it’s more than 25%). but there’s another study – one done by contacting social-media savvy businesses which are part of MerchantCircle – and it found that while 53% of the respondents were using social media, only 22% found Facebook profiles to be an effective marketing technique. The hard truth is that not many small businesses today are drinking the social media Kool-Aid, and those that are aren’t seeing the results they hope for. Why?

Well, the core reason is that social media marketing is wildly labor-intensive. The Citibank executive quoted explains it pretty well:

“What this survey indicates to us is small businesses are very, very focused on running their business and on generating sales and managing their cash flow and doing the things that are really important, especially in these economic times,” Veltre said. “I don’t think quite yet the social media piece of it has proven to be as significant.”

Here’s my earlier take on the subject, in a response to Chris Brogan:

[Brogan is] just mistaken about the capability and priority of small businesses. Look, for me or for Chris – who are online 17 or 18 hours a day (I’m in front of the monitor for 9 or 10, but have my Blackberry with me the rest of the time) these are great suggestions. If you’re a new-media consultant, they are terrific.

But the for locksmith down the street from me, these are 180 degrees wrong. He doesn’t have the bandwidth to do these things – to sit in front of the computer long enough to meaningfully blog, Tweet, listen and promote – while he’s also fixing locks and cutting keys. It’s not that he’s not capable or smart enough to – of course he is. But his day’s activities don’t involve sitting in front of a screen, and if he did, he’d be neglecting the things he needs to do to actually make money.

Or to make it simpler, a slide from my presentation:


Does that mean no small business today has build its customer base using social media – of course not. But what it does mean is that small businesses need to be thoughtful about how they spend their dollar’s worth of attention. And it’s critical that those of us who are trying to guide small businesses make it clear that there’s lots more to small business marketing using social media than Facebook and Twitter.