Small Business Social Media Research: Do You Measure Up?
Were you paying attention to the 2016 small business social media trends?
Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign was. (Note: This is not a political article!)
Small businesses were the early social media champions. With David-like agility, they tapped into social media’s distribution and community building power before their Goliath-size competitors caught on.
This changed in 2016.
Social media networks had to show profitability.
As result, 3 key 2016 small business social media trends emerged.
- Social media platforms entered the consolidation phase.
- Social media became the media.
- Social media strategy must be integrated into your marketing.
The Trump election campaign underscored the power of these 2016 small business social media trends. Social media network algorithms and lack of platform editorial oversight allowed the campaign to micro-target individuals (largely on Facebook and Reddit).
To remain competitive, small businesses need a documented strategy for employing social media to support their business. For their people and budget investment, they must build a housefile of interested prospects, qualified leads & customers and show profitability.
2016 Small Business Social Media Research
Buffer surveyed 1,252 respondents. They represent small businesses. This makes sense since larger organizations with more resources invest in more sophisticated, integrated social media and martech (aka: Marketing Technology).
- 74% of respondents work for companies with 50 or less employees.
- 85% of respondents had marketing teams of 5 or less employees; almost half were the only marketer!
- 21% of respondents work for marketing, PR or advertising firms. They’re outsourced marketing support.
3 Small Business Social Media Trends for 2016
Based on Buffer’s research, here are 3 key small business social media trends to help you plan for 2017.
1. Social media platforms enter the consolidation phase
Like their larger peers, small businesses focus their social media effort onFacebook.
Top 5 social media platforms for small businesses are:
- 93% of respondents use Facebook
- 88% of respondents use Twitter
- 65% of respondents use LinkedIn
- 63% of respondents use Instagram (owned by Facebook)
- 56% of respondents use YouTube (owned by Google)
Actionable Small Business Social Media Points:
Despite reduced organic Facebook visibility, 7 out of 10 small businesses post the same amount or more.
- 46% of respondents post more frequently on Facebook
- 26% of respondents post the same amount on Facebook
- 46% of respondents post less frequently on Facebook.
Want to improve your Facebook marketing?
Despite changes at Twitter, Trump’s continued use of the platform means Twitter remains high on the list. At least for now!
YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. Be present or miss search opportunities.
Small businesses reduce use of these social media platforms:
- 27% of respondents will use Google+ less.
- 23% of respondents will use Twitter less.
- 19% of respondents will use Facebook less.
- 15% of respondents will use Pinterest less.
- 13% of respondents will use LinkedIn less.
Actionable Small Business Social Media Points:
- Google has withdrawn resources from Google+ so reducing usage is a no-brainer.
- Facebook has reached a saturation point in terms of investment for 1 in 5 small businesses.
BUT look deeper into Buffer’s research:
- No new social media darlings! Translation: Social media players are consolidating.
Despite 4 million users video-based Blab went poof without a social media murmur.
Instead existing social media players focused on live video, extending 2015 social media’s video trend.
They followed Snapchat’s live video lead. Anyone with a smartphone can create this cheap real time content. It’s straight out of the cable news talking heads’ playbook.
What should you do?
Move beyond the major players. Be visible on Facebook. Consider making a splash where you can stand out.
- Pinterest (B2C) and Slideshare (B2B) provide long-term value for content distribution and lead generation. They generate sales!
- Reddit (and other similar amplification sites like Quora). They amplify content and tend to be below the radar.
2. Social media became the media
Social media is media in the traditional sense. Businesses must pay for visibility. Additionally, companies must invest resources, people and budget, for organic social media reach.
a. Social media is paid media
Social media requires marketing, content and media skills and budget to produce, optimize and target content and advertising to yield maximum business results.
- 91% pay-to-play on Facebook.
- 34% pay-to-play on Twitter.
- 27% pay-to-play on Instagram.
- 25% pay-to-play on LinkedIn (Offers advertising, subscriptions and HR services.)
- 11% pay-to-play on YouTube.
Almost 1/3 of US online adults use ad blockers and 1/2 actively avoid ads on websites according to 2016 Forrester Consumer Technographics data. BUT Facebook implemented a work-around for this desktop challenge. (Unlike Google, Facebook didn’t made a deal with these firms!)
Facebook’s pay-to-play is driven by their massive micro-targeting data, the only way to access their information! I predicted this when Facebook IPOed in 2012.
Facebook and Google control 75+% of the digital ad marketplace. Ignore Facebook at your peril!
Social media requires organic and paid investment. From a marketing perspective, social media is like search; optimize social media for organic and paid results.
b. Social media editorial oversight required
The US Presidential Election “fake news” issues raised social media platform integrity questions. The New York Times researched and fact checked a Reddit case study to show how weak the Reddit news was and how it spreads.
Expect social media entities to add editorial oversight like LinkedIn’s hiring of a Fortune Magazine editor. This will be key to supporting their revenue models.
c. Owned social media (aka: blogs) required
To protect your audience as social media becomes media, small businesses must build owned social media platforms. This means blogs.
Chris Brogan has said, “Blogging isn’t dead!“
Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich repeated this business blogging call-to-action.
Blogging is one of the original social media formats. But Buffer’s research didn’t include blogging as a form of social media!
Need blogging help? Download your blogging checklist NOW!
As owned media, a blog is the jewel in your business’s content offering according to LinkedIn’s Jason Miller.
Even better, a blog yields measurable results and ownership of your house file and content. Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi laser-focuses on blog email subscribers.
3. Social media strategy must be integrated into your marketing plans
Social media must prove its value directly to businesses.
Small companies don’t invest in fulltime social media position due to lack manpower and resources. Social media is part of a more inclusive marketing function.
- 80% of respondents say social media is only part of my job.
- 15% of respondents say social media is my fulltime job.
- 5% of respondents say social media isn’t part of my job.
Small businesses use social media mainly for top of the purchase funnel activities that don’t provide measurable results. To increase branding, reach and content distribution, small businesses substitute social media for more expensive third party media.
- 85% of respondents use social media to increase brand awareness.
- 71% of respondents use social media to engage with their community.
- 61% of respondents use social media to distribute content.
- 54% of respondents use social media to generate leads and sales.
- 21% of respondents use social media to provide customer support.
Small businesses suffer from the lack of a documented social media strategy integrated into overall marketing and business plans. This is consistent with the UMass Dartmouth Inc 500 Research where 2/3 of respondents did NOT have a documented social media strategy.
Without a social media strategy, small businesses can’t show return on their social media investment associated with their business objectives.
The challenge: Transform social media distribution and engagement into reader action.
Despite this, social media spend remains a small business marketing staple. Unfortunately, Buffer’s research didn’t include any questions regarding social media return or metrics.
- 42% of businesses will increase their social media budget.
- 51%, of businesses will keep their social media budget flat.
- 7% of businesses will decrease their social media budget.
The REAL small business social media problem: “Social media is doing something for my business; I’m just not sure what.”
Small businesses don’t understand how social media can help them. The top small business social media challenges are:
- 49% of respondents have trouble generating leads and sales. Businesses must figure out how to warm social media leads into subscribers before pushing for a sale. Don’t send people to your website!
- 42% of respondents have trouble defining social media ROI and other metrics. Small businesses often suffer from one of these 5 social media metrics issues. You must determine what drives your business objectives and measure it. (Check what metrics 10 experts recommend.)
- 41% of respondents have trouble finding time to dedicate to social media. This screams not important! Social media must have a documented strategy and be part of someone’s job description.
- 37% of respondents have trouble planning and scheduling content. With good tools like Co-Schedule, Hootsuite or Agora Pulse, you should be able to plan and batch schedule content efficiently.
- 36% of respondents have trouble targeting the right audience. User data is the true super power behind social media advertising. (BTW-Here’s how to create a social media persona! )
Together these social media challenges underscore that small businesses must apply marketing rigor (aka: a documented social media strategy) to yield measurable results.
The Small Business Social Media Trend Bottom Line
Like Trump’s Election Campaign, small businesses must strategically use social media.
Accept that social media platforms are consolidating and becoming media.
Buffer’s small business social media research underscores that you must go beyond using social media to build awareness.
But, without a documented strategy, your social media will remain a top of funnel activity you can’t measure directly.
You don’t want that!
You’re spending money on social media.
Make it work to build an owned audience that’ll drive sales.
Document your social media strategy.
Align it with your business goals.
With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day, it's getting harder to separate the signals from the noise and discern the insights from the hindsight.
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Photo Credit: Aaron Burden via https://unsplash.com/photos/yEv3yD8j4J8 (Creative Commons Zero)