What’s important about this study is that it benchmarks social media utilization and implementation on a smaller-scale. Too often people tout Ford, Coca-Cola or some other huge entity as benchmarks for social media marketing success, but the scale and budget that those companies enjoy make their tactics somewhat irrelevant to companies with a smaller-scale. That said, this study of small and medium businesses STARTED at $5+ million revenue, so this should be a wake-up (at least somewhat) to a very small business or ambitious entrepreneur who is spending as much or more on budget than a $5 million company.
What the “Pathway to Influence” study did was sense small and medium sized businesses on a whole range of topics around their social media presence. In aggregate, the insights offer a pretty good “state of social media” for smaller businesses, and I think Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing (specifically Frank Strong and the phenomenal John Jantsch) did a great job identifying the need for this data and then collecting and presenting it in such a digestible fashion.
*SMB = small and medium-sized businesses
Who is managing social media marketing?
One of the key takeaways from the study was that 73% of the businesses in the study made social media marketing an additional function of their marketing department. Assuming that a portion of the remaining 27% would use interns or some zero-cost mechanism, this indicates that small businesses aren’t spending more money on headcount to manage their social media presence. This may indicate that there is more opportunity for social media marketing trainers than there are for community managers for businesses this size.
Another takeaway was that the average business in this study has a social media marketing budget of $845 per month for social media tools (just over $10K per year). Many respondents also indicated that they expect to increase budget in the near-term. This may present an opportunity for social media consultants who have a broad understanding of social media management tools to set-up a robust set of tools, save a company money and pay their bills. It also seems to indicate that this size of business may be susceptible to software pitches because they have budget and because social media marketing is oftentimes ancillary to the marketing function.
What are people measuring?
One of the more illuminating insights from the study was the data on how these businesses are measuring their social media marketing efforts. It appears that many companies are marrying their social media efforts to their website, presumably (hopefully?) as part of an inbound marketing campaign.
The additional measurements such as follower size, follower demographics, hashtags, et cetera seem to indicate that businesses are focusing a lot on awareness metrics for the majority of their measurements. While this seems somewhat incongruent with the theory that their social media marketing is tied into an active inbound marketing effort, it shows that businesses are measuring their efforts and most importantly that businesses are not freewheeling social media.
One of the statistics that stuck out for me was that only half of sensed businesses saw scale in their social media efforts as important. Assuming all or most of the $5 mil businesses are not local brick and mortar businesses, this indicates some misunderstanding of the power of social media. Sales has always been about numbers, and social media marketing isn’t a practice that breaks all conventional sales wisdom. In fact, because of the low-barrier to entry for most social media, scale may be more important for social than many other top-of-the-funnel tactics.
This indicates to me that there are training opportunities for businesses of this size (the caveat being that they would open to them), and that businesses who aren’t currently utilizing social media don’t have as steep a path to catch-up to their competition as one might think.
What I think this means
This study is a pretty honest assessment of how smaller businesses are utilizing social media marketing, and it provides a more realistic benchmark for smaller businesses than most examples of social media prowess. It shows that smaller businesses are investing in social media marketing, that their understanding of the channels are growing, and that they are committed to grow the channels for the future.
What are your takeaways from this study? What is the state of social media marketing from your perspective? How effective are small and medium sized businesses participating right now? How well is social media marketing being measured?