Business owners are embracing social media as a marketing and communications tool, according to the Web.com Small Business Digital Trends report. Conducted by Web.com in partnership with Dr. David Ricketts, Innovation Fellow in the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, the study surveyed entrepreneurs with fewer than 500 employees in a wide range of industries, including service businesses, ecommerce businesses and more.
Eighty-eight percent of small business owners say they use social media. Facebook emerged as the clear winner in terms of effectiveness and popularity; it was ranked as the “most effective” social media channel four times more often than any other channel. Twitter was the next most effective platform, ranking ahead of Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Snapchat.
However, each platform was seen as effective by at least some of the survey respondents. Even nontraditional social media channels (such as Yelp, eBay, YouTube and Tumblr) were mentioned as valuable parts of small business owners’ marketing campaigns. No wonder more than half (54 percent) of those surveyed plan to invest part of their marketing budgets in social media in 2017.
The widespread popularity of social media as a marketing tool doesn’t mean small business owners know everything they need to know about maximizing its effectiveness. In fact, 85 percent of respondents admit they face challenges or roadblocks when using social media to market their business. The most common include:
- Concerns over reputational risks (15 percent)
- Being overwhelmed with the upkeep social media requires, including the need to constantly develop interesting content (14 percent)
- Lack of understanding of how social media will help their business (13 percent)
- Knowledge of how to set up social media channels so they integrate with their business (10 percent)
Small business owners in the survey are making some other social media marketing mistakes. Almost one-fourth (23 percent) of respondents say they use their personal social media accounts to market their businesses. At best, this causes confusion. At worst, it can hurt your brand if something that shows up on your personal page doesn’t jibe with the business image you want to present.
In addition, 16 percent of respondents say they use social media to market their businesses, but don’t have a business website. This is a huge mistake. If a social media channel changes its formula so that it’s no longer effective for you, you’ll have to start all over again. However, if you have a business website, you always have a foundation on which to build your marketing efforts.
Finally, 42 percent of small business owners admit they don’t use both a robust website and social media channels to market their businesses. To get the most from social media and online marketing in general, it’s important to integrate your social media presence with a well-designed business website. All of your marketing efforts, including your social media posts, should guide visitors back to your business website.
Small business owners in the survey believe big businesses have an advantage in terms of lower prices, wider reach and speed of response to customer demands. However, entrepreneurs believe their competitive edge is their personal connection with their customers. Social media can help you expand your reach, communicate with current and prospective customers, and build lasting customer relationships. You can make things simpler by getting professional help with social media marketing and taking steps to protect your online reputation.
Check back next week when I’ll share more results from the Web.com Small Business Digital Trends report.