Should Small Businesses Stick With Social Network Ads?

Twitter recently made headlines with its initial public offering, but at the same time, it seems that some within the small business sector have grown disenchanted with the popular micro blogging social network, and some other options in the sector. However, what's right for one independent enterprise may not be right for another, so each owner will have to consider their options carefully when it comes to choosing their social marketing strategies.

Advertising on Twitter or any other social network can help companies reach a wider market than they might have previously, but experts say that it may require patience to see actual results, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. For instance, the owner of a data company in New York told the newspaper that he will no longer use the service after two weeks of promoted tweets only garnered his company one response and no sales, but others have obviously had far better results. The key, the social network says, is sticking with it.

"I would say a couple days or a couple weeks are not enough [to see results]," Richard Alfonsi, Twitter's vice president of global online sales, told the newspaper. "You have to think about planning for the long term."

In fact, that lack of patience is apparently common among small business owners when they advertise on social networks, the report said. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg likewise noted that entrepreneurs tend not to use all the tools at their disposal when it comes to these issues, but has had greater success with engagement in the past few years; in all, about 20 million small businesses have created their own Facebook brand pages, while a million of those have also paid for ads. Comparatively, Twitter is lagging far behind, with only 4.5 million small businesses signed up on the site, and those that have paid for ads only number in the thousands.

Part of the reason for this is likely that Twitter has about a quarter of the user base Facebook carries, and thus those small businesses that decide to pour critical funds into social advertising are likely trying to connect with the largest number of people possible, the report said. However, that doesn't mean Twitter isn't going to be effective for marketing, particularly when companies with target audiences that tend to skew younger.

Why is this?
While companies may view social networks as largely being equal in terms of who uses them, the fact of the matter is that each one tends to have a pretty significant demographic behind the large portion of its user base. Facebook stands apart from this general rule, as its more than a billion worldwide users tend to come from every age and background; in short, everyone uses Facebook, whether it's a young teen or an 85-year-old grandfather.

The average Twitter user, meanwhile, tends to be a younger and very tech-savvy person. It shares a very similar audience to Instagram, in that mostly Millennials use it. This is also true of Pinterest, but that site is used far more heavily by women than men. On the other hand, LinkedIn is generally frequented by older professionals in general, and they also tend to be more affluent than users of other social sites.

When owners have limited money to devote to social advertising, they may want to work to free up funds in other ways as a means of reaching more people. That could include finding more affordable small business insurance policies, such as those for general liability insurance, or workers' compensation coverage. Freeing up as much as thousands of dollars per year can go a long way to helping grow an enterprise.