With small businesses increasingly heading onto Facebook and other social networks, local media advisor BIA/ Kelsey is launching a social media practice geared to the local market.
Recent research by the firm, in partnership with ConStat, shows 48% of small and medium-sized businesses are using Facebook to advertise or promote their business, outstripping email at 43%. Among those surveyed, 40% said they have a dedicated Facebook page. Among other findings, one-quarter use other social networks, 22% have a blog, and 19% use Twitter to promote their company.
A separate study last week from MerchantCircle estimated the proportion of small businesses using Facebook even higher -- at 70% -- up from 50% a year ago and topping the two-thirds that use Google search advertising.
That survey also found Facebook Places had overtaken Foursquare to reach a 32% current usage rate -- with another 12% of small businesses expressing their intention to use the Facebook social location service in the coming months.
"Social local media, as a marketing, customer-care and content agent, has crossed the mainstream threshold," stated Neal Polachek, president of BIA/Kelsey. Through its new practice led by Jed Williams, the firm will focus on helping local merchants develop the right strategies for integrating social tools across media, marketing and advertising efforts.
It will cover various areas, including new local monetization models for social networks, metrics for measuring social initiatives, social media transactions, check-in services and reputation management. As part of the effort, BIA/Kelsey will produce monthly industry reports and case studies, as well as offer access to analysts. To bolster its expertise, BIA/Kelsey is working with Andrew Shotland, a search and social SEO specialist at LocalSEOGuide.com.