social media marketing

By Rieva Lesonsky

Oh, how times have changed from just a few years ago. Today, small business owners are using social media marketing in a big way. Some 73 percent already use it or are planning to start doing so in 2016, reports a survey by Clutch. In fact, social media has become the number-one marketing tool for small businesses—ahead of even company websites (which just 65 percent of small business owners in the Clutch poll have.)

But how well are small business owners doing with social media marketing, and what kinds of results are they getting? Here’s what Clutch found

In general, small business owners are focused on the basics. Facebook is by far the most popular social network; 89 percent of companies in the survey use it. Twitter is used by 49 percent, LinkedIn by 42 percent, Pinterest by 31 percent and Instagram by 28 percent. Less popular are Snapchat (11 percent), Vine (8 percent), Medium and Reddit (both 6 percent) and Periscope (4 percent).

When it comes to activity on social media, small business owners are doing very well. Just 11 percent of those who are active on social media say that they post inconsistently. The vast majority of entrepreneurs post at least once a week or more often: 35 percent post weekly, 26 percent post several times a day, and 18 percent post once a day.

As for social media metrics, small business owners still have a ways to go. Their primary means of tracking the success of social media is measuring views (51 percent), posts and interactions (34 percent), audience growth (32 percent) and shares (30 percent). Only about one-fourth (28 percent) of small business owners in the survey say they measure the relationship between social media activity and actual revenue generation; 22 percent say they measure conversions.

Are these the most important metrics to measure? Well, it depends. If your goal is just to generate chatter, measuring likes and shares could make sense. However, most of us want social media to accomplish more than just getting people talking. We want to attract new customers, make sales and increase revenues. If this is the case, you’re better off tracking metrics such as conversions and sales that reflect more important actions than just clicking “like.”

Clutch offers some guidance for small business owners hoping to get better at social media marketing:

  • Understand the unique benefits of social media, such as its ability to build close relationships with your customers and to enable direct communication with your target audience.
  • Ask yourself: Who is my audience, where is my audience on social media, and how do they like to get content? This will help you identify the appropriate social media networks to focus on. For example, if your business benefits from sharing images, you might prefer Pinterest or Instagram to Twitter. If your audience likes to read long articles, LinkedIn might be better for you.
  • Follow some basic rules for posting. Post at the times of day when your audience is most engaged on each social platform. Don’t post too often. Focus on quality rather than quantity.
  • Don’t forget about online review sites. Depending on the nature of your business, review sites such as Yelp! may be important social media channels for you. For example, if you own a restaurant, Yelp! should be part of your social media marketing, because it’s used as a social tool by consumers.
  • Measure the right metrics. Know what your goals for social media are, and measure the metrics that are relevant to those goals.

Don’t get discouraged: Although most of the businesses surveyed had fewer than 10 employees, the report notes that even larger companies have difficulty properly measuring and quantifying the results of their social media marketing efforts. Social media is most effective when it’s part of a larger online marketing strategy, so make sure your social media posts are in tune with the rest of your marketing.