Some 36 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) spend, on average, $845 a month on software tools for social media management, according to a new survey of 400 decision makers at SMBs. Vocus, a provider of cloud marketing software, teamed with Duct Tape Marketing to analyze the data and produce “Path to Influence: An Industry Study of SMBs and Social Media.”
John Jantsch, marketing consultant, bestselling author, speaker, and creator of Duct Tape Marketing, says: “What I’ve been noticing more and more is there’s finally this acceptance that social media not only isn’t going away, it’s an essential element of the marketing mix and the real challenge now is to figure out how to integrate it into the total online and offline marketing presence.”
Another 32 percent of SMBs spend $1,000 or more per month on social media management. Separately, 22 percent of SMBs use consultants to aid with their efforts, though many SMBs have simply added social media to the list of existing duties of marketing employees. The median number of tools used is three and social media accounts for 25 percent or more in terms of overall marketing efforts for the vast majority of SMBs.
While data indicate that SMBs are finding value in social media, it also demonstrates divergent philosophies on the best path to finding that value. SMBs are acutely aware of the challenges with marketing through social media and though no single barrier stands out, many smaller nuisances add up to overall frustration. Overcoming the perception that social media is free was a frequently cited challenge.
While this study clearly demonstrates that SMBs are focused on tangible business outcomes, SMBs are also capturing myriad metrics to measure the results of their social media efforts. The measurement of increased traffic to a web site was the most commonly cited metric with 76 percent of SMBs measuring referral traffic from social platforms. Facebook ranked as the top social site currently used by SMBs, but ranked second to last, leading only MySpace, on future intent suggesting near saturation. Google+ proved to be the dark horse with 44 percent of SMBs saying they currently use Google’s social network, however it topped the list in terms of future plans, tied with Instagram at 14 percent.
Other key findings include:
- Social media is helpful: 87 percent of SMBs say social media has been somewhat helpful or helped a great deal; 10 percent said it had no effect.
- Perception of influence varies: 40 percent of SMBs prefer a smaller but highly engaged audience; 27 percent would prefer a huge following with little engagement.
- Healthy share of marketing efforts: 77 percent of SMBs indicate social media makes up 25 percent or more of their total marketing efforts.
- Sharing is common use: The most common use of social media is to share information 91 percent; only 46 percent see social media as a place to handle customer service issues.
- Doubling up on duties: 73 percent of SMBs have added social media to the existing duties of a marketing person.
- Spending set to rise: 84 percent of SMBs plan to increase their use of social media at least a little in the future.
The survey of organizations with annual revenue between $5 million and $50 million was conducted July 18-28, 2012. No organization had more than 1,000 employees.