25 Small Business Social Media Trends You Need

Social Media: How The Fastest Growing SMBs Use It

Small business social media trendsHow does your firm’s social media use compare with the 2014 small business social media trends?

Regardless of your company size, its useful to check how the fastest growing SMBs (aka small and medium sized business) as represented by the Inc 500 use social media. Due to smaller size and lower amount of resources, these firms tend to take advantage of social media opportunities faster than their larger competitors.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth conducted its 7th annual study of Inc 500 firms’ social media usage in fall 2013. (BTW—Here are 16 SMB social media facts from 2012’s survey and here are the 29 small business social media tips for 2015.)

Using the Inc 500 as a guide of business size, UMass Dartmouth examined each firm on the 2013 list to determine the social media tools they used. 118 randomly selected executives, 24% of the Inc 500, were interviewed via phone.

How big is an SMB?

42% of those interviewed reported annual company revenues between $3M and $10M. About two-thirds had 50 or less employees and over half were founded between 2008 and 2011.

Small business social media strategy

80% of the Inc 500 have a social media strategy in place. Over half integrated social media activities into their overall marketing and/or business plans.Small Business Social Media Trends 2014

  • 88% of small businesses use LinkedIn.
  • 84% of small businesses use Facebook.
  • 74% of small businesses use Twitter.
  • 58% of small businesses use Google+. Google+ usage was added in 2013 so that it appears to have the largest growth.

Blogs are still a core social media and content marketing platform for small businesses.

  • 52% of Inc 500 firms have blogs compared with 34% of Fortune 500 firms in 2013, up from 19% and 8% respectively in 2007. The use of blogging has steadily increased among Inc 500 firms over the last 7 years and has been consistently higher than the Fortune 500.

Visual social media is gaining traction among Inc 500 companies. This is important since these visually based platforms support sales generation.

Actionable Small Business Tip:
Incorporate one or more visual social media platforms into your social media strategy.
These sites and apps support sales by showing real people using your products.

FourSquare usage declined to 23% of small businesses. This makes sense since social media participants can use the range of platforms via a mobile device. As a result, there’s no need for a special mobile social media platform.

Actionable Small Business Tip:
Use a mix of social media platforms
to reach your target audience and to provide them with the information they seek where and when they want it. Understand that over 70% of consumers do their purchase related research before businesses know that they’re in the market.

Small business social commerce

The Inc. 500 use social media platforms to drive sales for their businesses.Small Business Social Media Trends 2014

Here’s how small businesses view the sales potential of different platforms for social commerce:

  • 61% believe Twitter holds the greatest sales potential.
  • 55% believe Facebook holds the greatest sales potential.
  • 31% believe Pinterest holds the greatest sales potential.

Note: LinkedIn and YouTube also hold sales potential.

Small business social media sales

45% of small businesses track sales that come through their social media platforms (specifically Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest). Of those not currently tracking sales, 29% plan to do so within the next year.

Small Business Social Media Trends 2014

  • 52% of small businesses estimate that less than 1% of their total annual sales came from social media.
  • 27% of small businesses estimate that 1 to 5% of their total annual sales came from social media.
  • 8% of small businesses estimate that 6 to 10% of their total annual sales came from social media.
  • 2% of small businesses estimate that over 10% of their total annual sales came from social media.

Actionable Small Business Tips:

  • Incorporate a contextually relevant call-to-action in your social media content to encourage purchase.
  • Streamline your purchase process on your own website. The best social media marketing in the world is useless if your purchase process is onerous.

When asked whether customers purchased from Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, small business executives mentioned Facebook most, followed by Twitter, and then Pinterest. Others mentioned LinkedIn.

Actionable Small Business Tip:
Underestimate the economic value of visually based social media platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, Slideshare (not mentioned in the study) and Instagram at your peril
. Jump in and test these sites to support your firm’s sales before they mature and yield lower results.

Small business use of content marketing on social media

Content marketing is an integral element of social media and small businesses are no different.

  • 75% of executives used original or reposted content exclusively on social media in 2013.  This underscores that small firms need to maximize each element of their marketing mix.
  • 25% of small firms supplemented their social media content with purchased content. This is attributable to a lack of internal resources with the appropriate skills to create social media relevant content.

The top 2 small business goals for social media content were engagement and/or interaction for Facebook and Twitter and thought leadership for blogging.

Actionable Small Business Tips:

  • Use an editorial calendar to plan your content creation associated with your promotions and determine where you need outside content marketing support.
  • Create social media distribution plan for your content marketing. Ensure that you plan your content distribution on appropriate social media entities to extend your reach.

Small business social media policies

Small businesses haven’t changed their social media efforts much in the past year.

59% of small businesses monitor their brands, products and/or company name on social media in 2013, down from 70% in 2010.  While attributable to high monitoring costs or inability to track profits to social media efforts, they will need to find low cost alternatives to ensure social media effectiveness.

Actionable Small Business Tip:
Monitor your brand and competitors on social media
. Focus on more than vanity mentions. Use monitoring to protect your corporate assets and to get ideas for engaging and selling customers.

31% of small businesses have written social media policies to guide online employee communications. Despite highly visible employee social media missteps, this proportion has remained relatively constant. In 2009, 36% of small firms had a written social media policy.

Actionable Small Business Tip:
Create a social media policy that applies to all of your employees
. Leverage third party resources to develop a set of guidelines. This is particularly important when employees use their own social media accounts and devices for business. Define what intellectual property you own.

39% of small businesses have a strategy in place to handle an online crisis, down 15 percentage points from 54% in 2012. This is likely attributable to a lack of resources to create these policies, a lean corporate structure approach, and a naivety due to the lack of high profile problems.

Actionable Small Business Tip:
Put together a social media crisis strategy before you need it
. Don’t wait until you have a problem to implement one since the crisis can get bigger while you’re trying to figure out what to do. Get a firm lined up and write out rules while everyone is clear headed.

Small business social media trends for 2014 reveal an increase in usage across a variety of platforms.

To stay competitive as an Inc 500 or Fortune 500 company, think in terms of integrating your social media and content marketing strategies including distribution.

Further, don’t overlook the need for social media monitoring and guidelines. This includes having a social media crisis plan.

What do you see as the major 2014 small business social media trends?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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