Social Platforms, Local Media Face Small-Business Ad Cutbacks

Along with local media, social platforms-- Facebook in particular -- rely heavily on small businesses' collective ad revenue infusion. 

Facebook for Business currently reports more than 7 million active advertisers, and as of last year, the platform reported having created 60 million local business pages since its launch.                  

Now, it looks like even giant Facebook could feel a dent in the critical SMB ad-revenue source, due to the COVID-19 crisis's impact on those businesses. 

Borrell Associates' latest sentiment survey among small- to medium-sized U.S. businesses (SMBs), conducted March 15-20, finds that nearly 75% now view the economic environment for sustaining small businesses as “poor" -- up dramatically from just 6% expressing that sentiment as of December 2019. 

Further, 85% said that the coronavirus is having a largely negative effect on their businesses, with about half reporting business down more than 30%, and a third saying it's down by 10% to 30%.

Not surprisingly, then, 31% report having stopped or cut back on marketing, versus just 6% reporting that they are increasing brand awareness and promoting products/activities.

And half (52%) say they expect to spend less on marketing and advertising over the next six months -- up from just 14% as of December 2019. The moderately good news: 44% expect to spend the same or more on marketing over those six months.

Among those still marketing, nearly a quarter (22%) say they're reassuring clients with positive/supportive messaging, 11% are offering different shopping/service options, and 7% are advising clients/customers that they're open for business and are taking extra coronavirus precautions. But 13% say they haven't yet developed a new messaging approach, 

Asked what local media and/or ad agencies could do to help them most now, 28% said they want creative ideas and solutions to help them deal with the crisis, 17% said they need lower costs/better rates/discounts, 10% want different contract options, and 9% selected the option "fewer negative stories and misinformation/more positive stories."  

SMBs on average expect the crisis to affect their businesses negatively for about seven-and-a-half months.

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