Social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent in the past year alone, according to the latest report from the Small Business Success Index (SBSI). Indeed, one in five of the 500 small businesses surveyed in December 2009 say they have tapped into social media in some way or another.
Below is a summary of some other interesting findings from the study:
What's the Use of Social Media?
How social media can affect the bottom line can be difficult to explain to a newcomer. In fact, many SMBs that went into social media over the past year probably did so more out of desperation than as a deliberate strategy. As Dr. Alan Glazier, CEO and founder of the Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, noted:
In order to meet the growing challenges of a tough market last year, I was forced to consider alternative options to keep my business visible.
Glazier shared how he was ultimately able to generate new business opportunities even as his marketing budget was reduced by more than 80 percent. In essence, his business was coming up on top in searches by people looking for eye doctors in and around his city, and his personal blog made him out to be a thought leader in social networking within his profession.
In a nutshell, investing in social media makes it easier for SMBs to raise their visibility and to compete against businesses that don't. Of course, benefiting from social media requires some creativity to implement well. Businesses can tweet tips on areas of their speciality and give out special discounts available only to Facebook fans.
The Big Boys are Doing That, Too
There was a time when Facebook or Twitter appeared to be nothing more than a passing fad. These days, even the big companies are waking up to the use of social media. For example, well-known security vendors such as Symantec and McAfee have a Twitter presence, while AT&T recently concluded a Lose The Laptop Challenge in which it recruited bloggers to write about the new HTC Pure and HTC Tilt 2 smartphones. (I reviewed the HTC Tilt 2.) In fact, representatives from another well-known company also have contacted me in the past week to put together a contest via social media, with a high-end smartphone being offered as a prize.
What I'm trying to say is that large businesses are quickly recognizing the value of reaching out directly to the masses through social media. Hence, it is even more imperative for SMBs, which stand to benefit from more efficient use of their scarce marketing resources, to hop onto the bandwagon early.
The report noted that, "Social media investments rank third in small business investments to be made in the next two years." Personally, I believe that. Is your SMB ready to engage in social media today?