Being a slow news day (thus far at least), I started to look around and a report from July of this year from Network Solutions and some partners caught my eye. It was used to make a point over at Small Business Trends about SMB’s (small and medium business) and social media (a point which is much different than the one here so go check it out). When you take a little deeper dive into the findings it looks like the SMB group as a whole is saying what it says a lot when it comes to the latest and greatest business practices: We aren’t getting it like you think we are.
This is not to say that SMB’s are not using social media. That’s not the case at all. What appears to be all over the map are expectations and what happens when SMB’s, social media and reality intersect. Look at the chart below, which puts marketing barely into the “very important” category AND tells us that it’s not performing well.
That kind of response in a poor economy is reasonable since businesses are hurting no matter what is being tried to pick up the pace. What is interesting though is that marketing is not the top of the food chain for SMB’s – getting money to PAY for marketing is! It doesn’t get any clearer moving forward either.
What’s baffling are the details about using social media for this elusive group that makes up most of the businesses in the US. They always want to play but can’t seem to get over the hump when it come to Internet marketing as a whole.
For instance, if social media is the “wave of the future” why are the responses showing no growth or even some reduction in social media offerings like blogs?
But then in fine SMB tradition, they like to talk a great game and their expectations of social media ‘success’ have increased! Incongruent for sure but this is important to understand about the SMB. They love to talk about stuff but when it gets to doing it the walk rarely lives up to the talk. There is plenty of optimism as always but optimism without action is fantasy.
Here may be the real reason why SMB’s seem to have put the brakes on a bit with regard to social media. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows like the industry likes to portray.
This is another part of reality that the SMB hates to recognize. Oftentimes social media criticisms are very personal because the SMB is a person or that person is the face of the company. The “everything is roses” approach by social media consultants to this group usually neglects the potential risks and downsides. The cold hard facts are that social media takes time and money despite the industry push to present it as free and easy. Oh and it can sting a bit as well if someone wants to take an online swipe at an SMB.
So the world of SMB’s, Internet marketing and social media continues to be a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. It’s hard to pin down. Maybe it’s just time to stop trying to draw broad generalizations about a group that is as diverse as any on the planet. Each SMB has their own signature and fingerprint even within the same vertical but we still try to tell them “This will work because it’s cool, it’s current and everyone is doing it successfully!” That’s just not true.
The reality is that not all SMB’s are suited for the Internet in general and social media specifically. Some are perfectly suited for it but they may not be the majority of SMB’s when it is all said and done.
So what is your take on the SMB and social media? How do you see this huge market that proves to be so elusive? What are the biggest opportunities and / or barriers that exist for this group?