2016 Small Business Social Media Use: 5 Trends

How The Inc. 500 Use Social Media In 2016

2016 Small Business Social Media UsedUntil now small businesses have been at the cutting edge of social media marketing use.

In 2007, the Inc. 500 outpaced the Fortune 500 in their use of social media according to UMass Dartmouth research.

This makes sense.

Social media leveled the marketing playing field for small businesses. They spent time not dollars to find opportunities these new platforms presented.

Since then, social media adoption for marketing objectives has increased across businesses as platforms evolve and mature.

Now almost all of the Inc. 500 use at least 1 social media platform.

2016 Small Business Social Media Use - UMass Dartmouth Chart

2016 Small Business Social Media Use – UMass Dartmouth Chart

Concurrently, larger companies have integrated social media into their marketing plans. For them the cost of professionally supported social media activity and related advertising remains low compared to the alternatives.


  • While social media yields increased exposure and branding, small businesses remain challenged to allocate sufficient resources to remain competitive on social media and to track related ROI.

How can your resource limited small business use social media?

2016 Small business social media use: 5 Key trends2016 Small Business Social Media Used

Here are 5 key trends for 2016 small business social media use. They’re based on UMass Dartmouth’s 2015 Inc. 500 research findings. (BTW, here’s small businesses social media use in 2015.  )

1. 2016 Small businesses are no longer on social media’s cutting edge

2016 small business social media use focuses on the 3 top social media platforms. Yet, the biggest opportunities to break through are on new platforms with new features.

93% of the Inc. 500 have a LinkedIn account

No surprise. Smaller firms depend on business relationships that LinkedIn activity provides.

Research respondents didn’t mention using LinkedIn for thought leadership. They’re probably not using:

  • LinkedIn Publishing provides a great forum for thought leadership. For example, Likeable Local’s Dave Kerpen (and author of The Art of Influence) worked his connections to become an early user of the platform.

    2016 Small business social media use example

    Likeable Local Dave Kerpen on LinkedIn Publishing

  • LinkedIn Slideshare can distribute a variety of different content formats. Top Rank’s Lee Odden publishes awarding winning conference ebooks to drive sales and awareness. 

    2016 Small Business Social Media Use - Example from CMWorld 2014

    Lee Odden uses LinkedIn Slideshare to support Content Marketing World

82% of the Inc. 500 have a Facebook presence

Facebook is social media’s global 800 pound gorilla. It’s gaining traction in video, mobile and messaging. It’s opening its long format content in April.

Given its changing algorithms, Facebook is a pay-to-play platform. Facebook requires good community management and advertising budget. Facebook advertising provides information about about your audience. (BTW, here’s our 2016 Facebook Marketing Tips.)

Translation: Be present on Facebook but you’ll need to ante up. 

79% of the Inc. 500 have a Twitter profile

It’s interesting that Twitter continues to maintain its attraction despite recent concerns about its management and its future. From a small business perspective, Twitter content has a very short lifespan.

What’s surprising is YouTube’s lower adoption by small businesses. YouTube helped build small businesses like Orabrush and Blendtec. It’s the second largest search engine after Google.


2. 2016 Small business social media success is harder and more expensive than ever

Social media platforms are no longer the wild marketing frontier where only a presence is needed.

2016 Small business social media use requires time and resources, both people and budget. This translates to the need for additional content formats, namely video. Video remains white hot. But don’t overlook podcasting. It’s close behind, especially since it can be consumed as a secondary activity.

Interestingly, the UMass Dartmouth research doesn’t mention social media related tools. While they require employees and investment, they streamline your social media participation and scheduling. They’re essential and cost effective.

3. 2016 small business social media use rarely has a plan

YIKES!! 67% of small businesses don’t have a written social media plan.

Based on 2016 B2B content marketing research by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, businesses need the following to succeed:

  1. Know what social media success looks like. (Only 44% of B2B content marketers say they do.)
  2. Have a documented social media strategy. (Only 32% of B2B content marketers have one.)
  3. Have a documented social media mission statement. (28% of B2B content marketers have one.)

Yet less than 1 in 3 B2B content marketers views their efforts as successful!!!

Owners must develop a 2016 social media strategy including related content, promotion and budget. It must be integrated into the rest of the marketing plan.

4. 2016 small business blogging has declined

Only 37% of the Inc. 500 have active blogs.

2016 Small Business Social Media Use of Blogs - Chart - UMass Dartmouth

This may be attributable to blog posts being viewed as once and done content.

Rather, blog posts need on-going promotion and connection to sales and customer service. Like other social media, blogs need a plan and a mission.

Based on the UMass Dartmouth research, blogs are pigeonholed for small business thought leadership. Instead, use blogging to feed other social media and drive email and lead acquisition. Include a call-to-action with an offer readers can’t refuse. This will improve metrics and ROI. (Here are 33 blog tips to help your social media.)

Provide customer focused content to support prospects and customers. Specifically, include product information, demonstrate how to use and style the product, show ratings & reviews and answer their questions,

Having driven millions of dollars of sales via blogs, Marcus Sheridan recommends 5 types of customer content.

  1. Answer how much will your product cost. Give a range, not specifics. (Here’s the $2 million case study.)Answer your customers questions--basic content type
  2. Explain problems. If you don’t, you’ll never convert prospects.
  3. Compare your product to other options. Show your product versus your competitor (or substitute).
  4. Review your offering. Skip the fluff and your opinion. Buyers can smell advertising a mile away.
  5. Be the answer for “The Best of BLANK”. Make your content appear when people search on your category.

You don’t have to blog every day. Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina’s bi-weekly blog posts are an integral part of his search optimization plan. It’s not about direct sales. It’s about ranking for search.

5. 2016 Small business social media doesn’t yield measurable ROI.

Lack of ROI from 2016 small business social media use isn’t a surprise. Most businesses can’t track social media ROI.

Examine your marketing process holistically. Social media is rarely the first or last piece of marketing touched. That makes tracking difficult.

Where appropriate, include a call-to-action and offer a bribe or discount. Also focus on interim metrics like email signups. Used appropriately, blogs can achieve results.

BONUS: The missing 2016 small business social media platform

What’s missing from the UMass Dartmouth research for 2016 small business social media use?

Rating and review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. While their social media classification may vary, these sites provide a forum for user input and ratings. Further they give your fans and your haters a platform. (Check out Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters and Daniel Lemin’s ManipuRATED.)

More importantly in verticals where these sites exist, they can be a necessity for small businesses. Amazon acts like a rating and review site for the products it sells and it’s the place 44% of shoppers start their process.

Shoppers check Amazon First

Shoppers Check Amazon First  


While they may no longer be at the cutting edge, small businesses can make social media more effective to achieve their goals.

The answer is simple.

Create your social media plan.

Allocate time to assess how social media can achieve the biggest return for your business based on your available resources.

Integrate your social media plan into the rest of your business. Get your employees involved in social media so they think about and engage with your customers.

This way you support the communities for which small businesses are known; where your prospects and customers seek information and engage with others.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/fashion-men-colorful-hipster-6805/

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