A new sponsored study by Chadwick Martin Bailey commissioned by Constant Contact Inc has revealed that almost 40% of UK small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are successfully using the social media to market their business online.
Moreover, the study also suggests that nearly eight out of ten (79%) of those currently using social media marketing expect to increase their use of the tool to drive business growth in the next year.
Of the remainder currently not using social media marketing currently, 27% have stated that they plan to begin using it in the next twelve months. The survey was conducted in October 2011 via an online forum launched in the UK. The study questioned small business owners and their marketing decision makers about their use of social media marketing. The results included responses from British small businesses across a range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries, as well as nonprofits. A total of 680 respondents participated in the study.
The survey discovered that SMEs appreciate the relevance and value of the social media marketing, and believe that it will become increasingly important in the coming months. Two-thirds (68%) of the respondents reported that social media is an effective way to market their business, and 64% reported that social media will become even more important in the future. Smaller companies particularly valued the way that social media marketing helps them to generate word of mouth referrals (48%). The majority of UK SMEs believe social media marketing is cost- effective (47%), a good way to communicate with existing and prospective customers (approximately 45 per cent), and can help their business succeed in the longer term (45%).
Understandably Facebook was the most popular choice amongst SMEs using social media with just over half (51%) using it for marketing purposes: this was followed in terms of popularity by Twitter (42%), LinkedIn (39%), Flickr (16 per cent) and group deals (10 per cent). However, the survey was keen to underline that despite this recent surge in interest in the platform, the majority of small businesses have yet to be wholly convinced of its value and cost-effectiveness. According to Annette Lafrate, UK managing director of Constant Contact Inc:
“What’s interesting is that, while the number of UK SMEs using social media marketing is still under 50 per cent, those SMEs who are using it clearly see its value – and are looking to increase their social media efforts. We’ve believed for some time that social media marketing could offer big value to SMEs, primarily because it is all about engaging, and that’s something that SMEs are real experts at. The issue has been getting to the understanding that doing social media marketing doesn’t have to take a lot of time.”
The biggest problem noted in the survey was the misunderstanding about how much time needed to be devoted to social media marketing to make it effective. Many small businesses labour under the misapprehension that it is very time-demanding and costly. In fact 41 percent of the respondents confirmed that they haven’t embraced the channel for this very reason. Moreover, four out of ten SMEs refuse to commit effort and resources until they gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the medium. However, Lafrate remains upbeat in spite of these concerns:
“The great news for SMEs is that these hurdles are easily surmounted. There are fantastic tools available today that make social media marketing very easy to manage, both from a time and knowledge perspective. The hardest part is getting started.”