social media marketing

By Rieva Lesonsky

Is your small business using social media marketing? If you are, you’re in good company. Some 96 percent of business owners, marketers and “solopreneurs” in this year’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report are using social media for marketing efforts. Out of those, a whopping 92 percent “agree” or “strongly agree” that social media marketing is important for a business to do.

Some 93 percent of respondents use Facebook for social media marketing, while 79 percent use Twitter. Also high on the list are LinkedIn (used by 71 percent), Google+ (used by 56 percent), and YouTube (55 percent). However, Pinterest is strongly represented (45 percent) and 36 percent of respondents use Instagram.

Asked what their number-one social media marketing channel is, 41 percent of B2B respondents choose LinkedIn and 65 percent of B2C companies choose Facebook.

Areas for Improvement

There’s still room for growth in the use of social media marketing. In the next 12 months, two-thirds of respondents plan to increase their marketing efforts on Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. And despite the predominance of Facebook, more than six in 10 respondents say they’ll use Facebook even more for marketing in the coming year.

For very small businesses, LinkedIn could be one potential area for growth. While 71 percent of companies with 100 or more employees use YouTube for marketing, just 38 percent of self-employed entrepreneurs do.

Marketers still have a ways to go in measuring the results of their social media marketing efforts. For instance, only 36 percent say their Facebook marketing is effective, while 35 percent don’t know if it is, and 19 percent say it isn’t.

Perhaps this is why the vague term “increased exposure” is ranked as the top benefit of social media marketing, cited by 90 percent of respondents.

However, 77 percent cite the measurable benefit of increased traffic to their websites, 65 percent say social media marketing generates leads, 58 percent say it boosts their business’s ranking in search results and 51 percent say it improves sales.

Less-tangible results such as developing loyal fans (69 percent) and providing insights into the marketplace (68 percent) were also cited as valuable.

Make the Most of Your Time

The amount of time social media marketing requires is a big concern for marketers in the survey—and one every busy business owner can relate to. One-third of marketers say they spend 1-5 hours a week on social media, but 25 percent spend 6-10 hours per week, and 22 percent spend 11-20. That’s a lot of time! However, small business owners in the survey say it’s worth it. Half say social media marketing helps cut their marketing expenses—a considerable benefit for a small business on a budget.

One way to make the most of your social media time is to determine which social network attracts the most valuable users. After doing this, you can focus on providing the best content to attract those users.

Some 45 percent of respondents say blogging is their most important form of social media marketing content—above visuals (cited by 34 percent) and videos (19 percent). Apparently, consumers are doing more extensive research than ever before making a purchase, so they are gravitating to blogs, which provide more information than a photo or short video can.