Are SMBs adopting social media rampantly or reluctantly?
On the gung-ho side, Greg Sterling on Screenwerk.com writes that social media use by SMBs is “exploding,” citing a survey sponsored by Constant Contact that found that 73% of SMB-respondents said they were using social media to promote their businesses. Sterling says these results are in line with a previous survey “as well as a considerable amount of other data in the market.”
Likewise, a report by Roost on SMBNow found that, when asked what their most effective marketing channels were, 71.4% of SMBs said social marketing. Moreover, said the report, 87.3% believe social marketing is either “Somewhat Important” or “Very Important.”
Contradictory reports by Helen Leggatt on BizReport and Lisa Barone on Small Business Trends, citing a study by Insurance firm Hiscox, tell us that social media is not a “must” for SMB marketers and that 47% of SMBs are not using social media.
Frank Reed on Marketing Pilgrim, in a report entitled “Are SMBs Just Confused About WOM and Social?” points out that the Hiscox study shows that only 24% of respondents said they get involved with social media, while 64% said they “either don’t use it for their business, don’t know enough about it, or don’t give a rip at all!”
A report by Machus Corporation also tells us that “Small Businesses Not Using Social Media Tools.” The report cites a widely reported Zoomerang Online Surveys and Polls study that found that about one-half of surveyed SMBs said they use social media marketing to reach customers, but that social media was “underused” by SMBs. The study found that SMBs “are not using these tools to the fullest potential to capture their customers' attention.”
A study reported on gaebler.com offers even more startling results, informing us that “A Quarter Of Small Businesses Hate Social Media.” The report cites a recent survey from iContact that revealed that “one in four small businesses hate social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Groupon.”
Contradictory results on SMB use of social media abound. An eMarketer report citing the same Hiscox survey findings tells us that social media is “popular but not critical” for SMBs. The report notes that SMBs seem “apathetic” about social media while relating matter-of-factly that “uptake of social media marketing among small and medium-sized businesses has become widespread.”
So what’s the truth? Your guess is as good as mine it seems.
Research with controlled outcomes is endemic in the IT industry, with security vendors in particular having a notorious reputation for skewing their surveys to alarm users.
As Dave Vallante, founder of open source research service wikibon and former IDC senior VP, pointed out, a lot of research groups have become "hired guns." These firms, said Vallante, “are being paid to say something positive” and “don't disclose that the vendor paid for the research. They fool the customers."
While some social media studies may be unbiased, vendors with a stake in promoting social media products and services will, unsurprisingly, field results that are pro social media adoption.
Thus, the murky business of self-interest and marketing spin, coupled with the varying subject pools and methodologies used by different survey groups, ultimately clouds the issue.
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