There is evidence that small business is starting to see the value of social media for their operations. As it has been with search marketing it is likely that a majority adoption of the practice will take a considerable amount of time but it looks like the movement is underway, to a degree.
So why not announce that “Small Business is Using Social Media!”? Well, that would imply that there is widespread adoption of the discipline which, at this point in time, just isn’t true. A study conducted by Sage Software and AMI-Partners is covered over at eMarketer and while it’s interesting, it’s no coming out party for small business and social media across the board.
The study reports that 260,000 small businesses across the US and Canada are employing social media tactics in their business to one degree or another. That’s a pretty good size number but if you take it one step further and calculate the percentage of small businesses using social media in 2 countries it is a little less impressive. Assuming 25,000,000 small businesses in the US and 2.5 million in Canada, that means that just under 1% of these business are using social media. Now many will debate these figures but if you cut the number of total businesses in half, well you do the math. These are not widely adopted practices quite yet.
So what are those who are in the game doing?
Most of them used professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn. General social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook were also widely used, followed by niche communities and job sites.
Twitter has not been readily accepted as a small business tool yet but there are those who are having success using it. So why are they using any social media at all? The most prominent reasons are responding to customer questions, networking and education. What most are not doing is looking to sell through these channels which is interesting considering some of the success that can be found with a small business that gets it.
So what’s it take to get the little guy involved? Well, extra time, money and people for one. With social media being so time intensive the barriers to entry get higher as a business gets smaller. In the future it is going to be critical for small businesses to decide where they want to put their scarce resources so they can maximize their ROI. With a constantly moving target however that is increasingly difficult so the future of small business and social media will be interesting to watch.