Vertical Response published a recent infographic about small business social media usage based upon a recent phone survey that they conducted (see below). Though the results aren’t a reliable benchmark, there are some lessons that many small businesses can take away from their findings.
“1/3 of small business owners want to spend less time on social media”
This isn’t a surprising statistic to me. Many businesses start a Facebook or Twitter page because conventional wisdom says they need one. They don’t. My solution to that statistic is that 1/3 of business owners should quit using social media.
I don’t mean that callously, but imagine that a third of your salespeople hated selling. It takes a special sort of resolve to fake enthusiasm and it’s nearly impossible to do it consistently. These people aren’t enthusiastic about social media, so what are the odds that the people receiving their messages are thrilled to hear from them? I’d guess low. Social media is a waste of time for businesses that find it onerous. Either someone else needs to do it or it needs to disappear – what good is it doing otherwise?
“21% of small business owners post multiple times per day on Twitter”
The picture that these responses paint are of businesses without a clear strategy for social media. The Twitter statistic stands out, because it’s a tool where the barrier to entry is as low as anything out there. You sign up and can direct your tweets to anyone on the platform. On anyone’s first day using Twitter they can tweet the President of the United States and Betty White. With tools like SocialBro you can filter users to fit a very specific criteria (be it geography, gender, et cetera) and Twitter allots you 1000 tweets per day. So it’s hard for me to believe that a business has a deliberate social media plan when they tweet so little.
The fact that small businesses are focusing so much time on Facebook, when Facebook is trying everything in their power to get brands to advertise to augment their brand page also seems to substantiate a strategic dissonance. That most brands sampled pay for third party tools primarily to post to Facebook furthers that point (Hubspot discovered a 66% decrease in Facebook engagement for posts published via a third party tool).
What this shows
The results of this survey (however unscientific) reinforce in my mind that some businesses justify their use of social media quite irrationally. On no platform is this more evident than on Facebook where their stock concerns have put a myopic focus on advertising product, diminishing the reach and power of brand pages.
Business should step back and determine what they want to accomplish. A good litmus test (in my mind) would be Robin Wallace’s Thrifty Vintage Chic page on Facebook. You can see how Robin puts a lot of effort into her organic Facebook presence and engagement, and I think any business should be able to look at that community and determine whether they can commit the resources to build their own or if their time is better spent elsewhere.
Businesses should also raise the barrier to entry for social platforms. Rather than viewing them as free with a small time commitment – assigning a portion of their budget to digital marketing could help to focus their efforts. Would that money and resource be better spent collecting fans for a occasionally updated brand page on Facebook or managing an AdWords campaign? The recent Forrester study about the effectiveness of search and email when compared to social media suggests AdWords might be worth considering. It also suggests that rather than spending hours on social media, it might be worthwhile to spend more time on AWeber, MailChimp or (ahem) Vertical Response.
Tell me what you think – how do you interpret these responses? Is social abdication a reasonable strategy? How do small businesses get right with social?