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WSJVistageIntl-Small-Biz-Social-Media-Perceptions-Use-Feb2013A survey of small business owners by the Wall Street Journal and Vistage International has found that LinkedIn is not only the most commonly used social media tool by small businesses, but also the most positively perceived. Asked which social media tool had the greatest potential to help their firms, 41% of respondents chose LinkedIn, compared to 16% who pointed to YouTube, 14% to Facebook, and just 3% to Twitter. In fact, more CEOs chose LinkedIn than did Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest combined.

Perceived potential does not seem to be a function of current usage, either. While Facebook was behind YouTube in terms of perceived usefulness, 22% of respondents said they regularly use Facebook, compared to 13% regularly using YouTube. Similarly, while just 3% said Twitter had the most potential to help them, it ranked as the 3rd most regularly used site (14%) behind Facebook (22%) and LinkedIn (30%).

Rates of regular social media usage – with LinkedIn highest at 30% – appear to be fairly low. Still, the results align with previous research from Hiscox, which found just 35% of small businesses surveyed to be actively using social media. Some of the hesitancy concerning social media adoption in that survey surrounded its effectiveness, and the WSJ survey data also demonstrates similar concerns. Among respondents, just 12.8% said social media is highly valuable to the growth of their firm, compared to 23.6% who perceive social to be not valuable. Still, a plurality 45.2% said social media is somewhat valuable, indicating that many small businesses recognize the benefits of social media even if they don’t make the tools central to their growth strategies.

Of note, female small business CEOs appear to be friendlier to social media than their male counterparts. Female respondents were 78% more likely to say social media is highly valuable to their firm’s growth (20.8% vs. 11.6%), and 43% less likely to say it isn’t valuable (14.2% vs. 25%).

About the Data: The survey was conducted in January 2013 among 835 small business owners.

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