Social Media Not Big With Small Business Marketing

According to a survey of US small business leaders by Opinium Research, commissioned by Hiscox, many are not using social media channels to promote their businesses and products.  Only 12% of businesses described social media promotion as a must and nearly 50% of respondents aren't using social media at all.

Small Business Use of Social Media (% of Respondents)

Media or Comment

% of Respondents

Do not use social media for business purposes at all


Among those that do use social media for their business:

   Using Facebook


   Using LinkedIn


   Using Twitter


Businesses using social media ranked the most important channels used to grow and expand business:

   Company Facebook page


   Company page / group on LinkedIn


   Company blog helped them most


When all respondents were asked about how they felt about using social media for their business:

   Social media not important to our business


   Describe it as a must... do it all the time


   Do it when they have the time


   Don't know enough about it


Source: Opinium Research, commissioned by Hiscox, June 2011

Hiscox commissioned research with Opinium Research among 304 owners, partners and senior decision makers from US companies with 1 to 249 employees between the 18th of May and the 1st of June 2011.

Additional findings from the survey of these business owners, published by Marketing Profs.

Social media adoption varies by company size. 62% of businesses with 50-249 employees use social media for business, compared with 46% of those with 1-9 employees. 19% of small businesses with 10-49 employees say social media is a must, compared with the just 10% of those with 50-249 employees. Only 1% of surveyed small business owners say they publish a blog for business. 

Facebook is also the top channel for business growth. Small business owners who use social media cite the following channels as most effective in helping them grow their business:

  • Facebook page: 28%
  • LinkedIn company page or group: 18%
  • Company blog: 8%
  • YouTube: 6%

Building awareness and new business are the top reasons small business owners use social media, citing the following top objectives with social marketing: 

  • Brand awareness: 27%
  • Generate sales: 22%
  • Promote new offers, promotions: 11%
  • Customer service: 10%
  • Research: 10%
  • Improve SEO: 5%

Asked to identify which marketing channel they couldn't do without:

  • 50% of small business owners cite word-of-mouth recommendations
  • 39% of small business owners say WOM recommendations are their only source of business leads
  • 14% cite their website (18% of companies with 50-249 employees cite websites)
  • 8% cite working with key partners
  • 6% cite advertising
  • 4% cite social media/blogging
  • 4% cite viral marketing
  • 3% cite search marketing

60% or small business owners get advice about business from mentors and colleagues, while 43% cite conferences and events, 28% cite magazines and websites, and 14% rely on online forums.

Please visit Hiscox here for more information, and Marketing Profs here for their presentation.

5 comments about "Social Media Not Big With Small Business Marketing".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, August 6, 2011 at 8:58 a.m.

    Ha. This is what keeps them small. Pretending it's 1978.

  2. Ellie Becker from E.R. Becker Company, Inc., August 6, 2011 at 9:43 a.m.

    Now it would be interesting to know the stats comparing business growth between those companies employing online/inbound marketing channels/techniques with those using traditional channels or no channels.

    It's ironic that so many small businesses not using online marketing stated WOM as their best channel. Web marketing - especially with the new emphasis on local search - has the capability of expanding WOM exponentially, including with recommendations via sites like Yelp. I recognize that the idea of a time investment is daunting to small businesses and undooubtedly overblown in many minds.

    This study supports the anecdotal evidence I've gathered that there's still a huge amount of education needed to help small businesses shift to new channels. It's a chllenge for those of us who target them - and also a great opportunity I believe.

  3. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, August 6, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.

    Businesses are smart. Facebook Pages DO NOT WORK for sales. No one sees your Brand Posts. You are lucky if 1% do. Facebook wants this. They sell Ads. They don't want free marketing to work.

    And Social Media isn't for every business. How many customers will the autobody shop get from a Facebook Page or Twitter account vs street sign or SEO? Hands down Social comes last in performance.

  4. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, August 6, 2011 at 3:27 p.m.

    I agree that social media is not the silver bullet, but have seen Twitter's effectiveness - especially- in helping those both practicing and covering sustainable business and corporate social responsibility. What a thriving network - and one that only exists if you look for it. But, anyone who gives it a go and does a little reconnaissance (on any network) can quickly see who is doing it right, where it makes sense for their particular business to be (sometimes Twitter is much more productive than Facebook, or vice versa), and how they might make it work for them. In focusing on sustainability and the built environment (design, architecture, developers), for example, I see huge opportunity for a few firms to become the leading voices/influencers and help make a national and global difference. By sharing links/information that inspires, motivates and persuades others (even competitors) toward sustainable development and new ideas and collaborations, everyone wins.

    This research is not surprising, and - as Ellie comments - shows there's room for intensives education about the incredible tool social media could be for so many more businesses.

  5. Joe Buhler from buhlerworks, August 9, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.

    There is some truth to Douglas' comment! As Ellie states, it's often about ignorance and perceived lack of time or resources, which on closer examination are also often wasted on what's been done forever. Humans are creatures of habit and who has the time to change right? Especially when the naysayers are still around blaming the tools for lack of success, rather than the mindset and culture.

    The most striking dichotomy I see is between the importance of WOM and the lack of social media adoption, when the latter is the best tool to spread the former. It's not called "WOM on steroids" for nothing!

    The situation reminds me of the mid-90's or so when the need for having a website was looked at with the same amount of skepticism and now the same attitudes are prevailing again, at least for some time until the use of social web tools is as common as email or in fact the phone.

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