How Well Are You Using Social Media?

Small business owners have adopted social media marketing in a big way, according to the results of a recent survey by Clutch. Almost three-fourths (73 percent) of small business owners surveyed say they either use social media for marketing purposes or plan to start doing so this year. That makes social media the number-one marketing tool for small businesses. (By comparison, 65 percent of small business owners surveyed have a company website.)

But how well are small business owners using social media, and what kind of return are they getting?

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 (at this moment) 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 28 percent of the small business owners surveyed 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 many consumers use it as a social tool.
  • Measure the right metrics. Know your goals for social media, 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 is part of a larger online marketing strategy, so make sure your social media posts are in tune with the rest of your marketing. Need more help fine-tuning your social media strategy? Visit www.score.org to get advice from a SCORE mentor for free.

Rieva Lesonsky
<p> Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. <br /> <a href="http://www.growbizmedia.com/" target="_blank" title="GrowBizMedia">GrowBizMedia.com</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/rieva" target="_blank" title="Rieva on Twitter">@rieva</a> | <a href="https://www.score.org/author/Rieva-Lesonsky/all-posts" title="blogs by Rieva">More from Rieva</a></p>

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