As we reported earlier this week: A recent survey has fuelled discussion around findings illustrating that small businesses are still reluctant to embrace social media as a tool for accomplishing primary business functions. The recent study of US businesses from the SMB Group highlights that only 24% of small businesses said they used social media to “engage with customers and sales leads in a strategic and structured way.”
Interestingly; an additional 20% said they do use social media, but in an “off-the-cuff, casual way.” In fact, medium-sized businesses were actually slightly more active; with 33% saying they used social media “in a strategic way” and 19% in “an ad hoc way”.
These were interesting statistics indeed but what is the greater story around them? With that in mind; we spoke to our panel of experts to get their take on the discussion and how they perceive the state of social media in today’s start-ups and small businesses.
Raphaëlle Heaf, Founder of Art Spotter doesn’t think social media is being underused by small businesses, instead believing that “the number of apps available in the social media world have become so over whelming that people are unsure of how to best utilise each avenue.” The survey found that small businesses continue to cite time constraints as the main reason why they’re failing to exploit the opportunities presented by social media.
“The other issue is the fact that social media relies on constant use and regular updates in order to build the best trust and engaged audience, which for smaller businesses who have limited resources, means it just isn't feasible to benefit as much from, adds Raphaëlle. "Time is an issue,” agrees customer relations consultant, Adrian Swinscoe, “but, this is exacerbated by the fact that SMBs are being ‘sold’ on the idea that they need to be everywhere. This is wrong and confusing. My advice: keep it simple. Pick a site, use, learn and develop it and then think about adding new sites." Anthony Ng Monica agrees, telling us “Start-ups feel pressurised to engage with consumers through social media, however, companies must consider which channels are most appropriate for their overall business objectives.”
Interestingly, Manoj Ranaweera, founder and CEO of edocr.com, feels they aren’t falling behind, “Most small businesses are trying to survive in the economic downturn and do not have the time to learn a new art. To run an effective social marketing campaign, you need structure and a plan.” He suggests that where possible, entrepreneurs should look at what he describes as “the one-man social media agency,” which he has seen an increase of through his own work with edocr.com. Manoj suggests these are an “agile and willing” solution to “help the smaller businesses take advantage of new technologies.”
Andrew Moloney, a marketing strategist, believes business are “doing pretty well,” but believes this idea must be seen as case by case and even sector by sector; “when a business revolves around one or two people, it's their characters that dictate the adoption rate of anything new. No farming it out to the "guy in marketing" for SMBs! Consequently I’ve seen much better adoption in creative industries than in, say, engineering and construction focussed businesses.”
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Have you been using Social Media to good effect for your business? If not, what has been putting you off? Why not tell us on @MicrosoftSB