How Are Small Businesses Using Social Media to Reach Customers?

Many small business owners nationwide now know that the proper use of social media can be a boon for their companies, but many may not know exactly how best to pursue these issues. That, in turn, seems to be leading to something of a disconnect between what consumers want to see and what they're actually doing.

One of the biggest issues in this regard is that just 10 percent of small business owners believe that special offers or discounts are the best way to reach consumers through social media outlets, ranking these behind wall posts (favored by 51 percent) and direct messages (20 percent), according to a new survey from Intuit and Homestead. On the other hand, just 18 percent of consumers favor direct messages or wall posts when it comes to reaching them, while more than double those figures – 37 percent – say that they'd prefer to get the special offers and discounts.

That's quite a disparity between what consumers want, and what small businesses think they want, the report said. As a consequence, it may be wise for owners to revisit their goals for social media use in general, as well as why they're relying on it at all. Currently, just 28 percent of owners say that they use these platforms to connect with consumers, and while that is the single largest proportion for any reason, it only ranks slightly ahead of visibility and self-promotion (27 and 26 percent, respectively). Others also note that they use the sites to get news out as quickly as possible, stay ahead of the curve within their industries, and challenge their competitors. Most also say they like to use it because it's inexpensive and easy to use, while customers using these sites and the lack of time it takes to complete updates are also highly valued.

What it's costing small businesses
In fact, the affordability that comes with the use of these platforms means that the amount of money most small businesses feel they need to put into their use of social media on an annual basis is extremely low, the report said. In all, 42 percent of those polled said they put no money into these efforts at all, while another 17 percent noted that they spend between $1 and $100 on the efforts, while another 5 percent say they don't know. Those contributing more than that are all constrained to single-digit total,s, including a leading 9 percent which say that they spend between $501 and $1,000 annually on these sites.

When it comes to actually paying an employee to manage these pages, nearly three in four small businesses simply don't do so, the report said. Another 12 percent employ a full-time social media expert, while 8 percent more have someone in charge of these issues part-time. Another 6 percent have hired a consultant to do this work.

Facebook is by far the most popular of these services small businesses rely upon, with 86 percent having their own page, and for good reason, the report said. More than half of consumers polled say they're more likely to buy something from a business after clicking "Like" on Facebook, while just 41 percent say they are no more or less likely to do so.

Of course, the ultimate point of engaging customers in any way is to increase revenues which in turn could lead to expansion. As a consequence, owners will have to be prepared for the new responsibilities a bigger payroll might bring, which includes larger small business insurance costs. Shopping around for the most affordable workers' compensation or liability insurance will certainly go a long way toward helping to keep those costs as limited as possible.