SMBs Warming (Slowly) To Paid Social Media Services

October 19, 2012

Facebook (68.7%) leads among free social media platforms that small and medium businesses (SMBs) use for marketing, according to survey results from Reply!, released October 2012. Google+ is second, used by 49.2%, followed by Twitter (32.8%) and other social platforms (19.1%). Only 18.6% of SMBs report using none. The picture changes considerably when SMBs are asked on which social media platforms they pay for services, though, with about three-quarters saying they don’t pay for any such services. Google+ was a strong first in paid usage, but by just 12.6% of respondents, nearly twice the percentage that pays for Facebook services (6.6%), and nearly 10 times the percentage that pay for Twitter services (1.3%). 10.8% of SMBs pay for services on other social media platforms.

Still, those three-quarters not paying for social media services shows willingness to at least explore them. Some 42.6% of those holdouts say they are very likely to explore these products to promote their businesses within the next 3 to 6 months. Another 37.2% is indifferent, and 20.2% report being very unlikely to even explore those services.

However they’re currently being used, social networks have proved beneficial for SMBs in generating leads and achieving brand lift.  According to Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing in a September study, an impressive 87% of SMBs reported that social media has either helped them somewhat (58%) or a great deal (29%). As a result, social media accounts for an average of 32% of these companies’ marketing activities, with 1 in 5 SMBs spending more than 50% of their time on this channel.

7 in 10 SMBs Very Likely To Offer Daily Deals

Some 71.4% of the Reply! survey respondents reported that they are very likely to run a daily deals campaign in the next 3 to 6 months, versus 6.9% that are very unlikely to do so. Another 15.6% are indifferent to daily deals.

Thus far, 88.7% of respondents have not run a daily deal, though. Those that have in the last 6 months favored LivingSocial (4% of respondents), Groupon (3.9%), Amazon Local Deals (1.7%) and other daily deal platforms (6%).

Yelp, Angie’s List Dominate Free Reviews

Yelp leads strongly among the free reviews websites and services employed by SMBs, with 36.6% of respondents reporting use, nearly twice the percentage (20%) that use Angie’s List. Only 14.1% of respondents use a different review site. But, just 3.2% report paying to promote or manage reviews on Yelp. 90.1% don’t pay at all for online review services.

The respondents seem to recognize some value for those services, and 68.3% report being very likely to pay for or continue to pay for online reviews services. Only 9.1% report being very unlikely to do so.

9 in 10 Buy Mobile Ads

There are no free forms of mobile advertising, and 91.7% of SMBs report paying for mobile ads, while 70.1% report having mobile websites or applications for their businesses. While most respondents aren’t working with mobile transactions providers, Square and PayPal get the nod from those who do, with about 14% and 21% of total respondents respectively using those services. Another 11% plan to start using a mobile transaction service in the next 3-6 months.

Other Findings:

  • Respondents were fairly evenly divided in their feelings about the economy. Asked how the economy will fare 1 year from now, 37% were positive versus 36% who were negative, and 28% foresee no change.
  • The top 5 priorities that SMBs named in terms of business service needs were marketing and advertising, indicated by 23%, followed by price/cost (11.9%), customer service and support (8.5%), quality (5.9%), and SEO presence (4.5%).
  • For all the interest in reputation and reviews and a mobile presence, they were at the bottom of the list of 12 priorities (2.3% and 2.2% respectively).
  • The top 5 paid-for marketing products that interested respondents were Google+ (49.1%); Square (14.1%), Facebook (6.6%), LivingSocial (4.0%) and Groupon (3.9%).

About The Data: The survey was made available to all of MerchantCircle’s 1.4 million member merchants. The data was collected from September 17”“ 30 2012. Total responses numbered 3434. Respondents were primarily US SMBs, spanning a wide range of industries (e.g. B2B and professional services, home and improvement, auto service, healthcare, entertainment, restaurants and real estate). No incentive was offered.

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