SMBs Struggle To Understand Social Media

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Blogs, Facebook and Twitter are now used by most small to medium businesses in the US, although many remain unsure how to best use them

Despite the scare stories surrounding social networking, a new report has found that nearly 70 percent of US SMBs use social media, including Facebook, MySpace, blogs, YouTube and Twitter.

Research firm Access Markets International (AMI) Partners published the report on how US small to medium-size businesses are using social media and what their usage tells us about how IT marketers should use social media to target SMBs.

Limited Understanding

Although the number of SMBs using social media has grown drastically over the last few years, the report concluded that the industry’s understanding of what drives SMBs to use these tools remains limited. In addition, the understanding of how SMBs should be reached through social media is even less known. Although it has doubled in growth since 2007, social media usage among SMBs remains very narrow in scope. Only 30 percent of small businesses perceive social media as strategically important to their continued business success, in contrast to the 61 percent of midsize businesses that do so.

“The use of social media still proves to be a difficult concept for SMBs to align their business with, in terms of administering the full breadth and depth of the online tools and maximising their return on marketing investment [ROMI],” said Jacqueline Atkinson, social media manager of AMI-Partners. Atkinson noted AMI will be launching a series of marketing and go-to-market related studies called AMI’s SMB Marketing Optimization Series. This series will include two multiclient studies focusing on social media, best practices to market to SMBs, and assessing SMBs’ marketing spend.

Rules Of Engagement

“It’s crucial to understand the ‘Rules of Engagement’ when using social media in the SMB space,” said Chad Thompson, vice president of AMI’s marketing strategy group. “Although the medium in many cases is new, characteristics of the SMB market haven’t changed. Effective use of social media to drive ICT purchases in the SMB space is more science than art; this is what this report helps explain.”

The report follows a study AMI released in April, which showed home-based businesses (HBBs) increasingly turning to the web to boost business.

AMI’s study revealed that over half of HBBs in the United States use social networking sites, product-focused forum sites and blogs. A significant number of those who are using these types of media utilise them for building customer relations and promoting their business. The study found HBBs are also increasingly aware that websites are a powerful tool to expand both market share and revenue opportunities – hence, the number of US HBBs that have a website grew significantly in 2009.

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