A majority of small businesses are using social media — and not much else — to promote themselves, according to a new survey released by local directory and lead-gen site Merchant Circle. It also turns out that most of the respondents resist paying for advertising or other marketing services.
The online survey, which was conducted during the final two weeks of September, generated just over 3,400 responses. Respondents represented a range of industries, including legal and home services, automotive, health and beauty, entertainment, travel and more.
Much of the focus of the survey centered on small business confidence, their hiring outlook and who they were supporting in the presidential election (they went big for Romney). Reply.com noted that it is not affiliated with any political party, and the results of the survey in no way represent the views of the company.
Participants were also asked about their online marketing efforts. “Our data shows that American small businesses are still struggling to recover from the recession,” says Payam Zamani, CEO of Reply.com, owner of Merchant Circle. “As a result, small business owners have turned to free social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as marketing vehicles. In turn, they have slowed their investment in paid marketing services such as daily deals, though there are still many opportunities for growth within certain segments of service offerings.”
The respondents were enthusiastic adopters of social media sites, especially Facebook. Nearly 70 percent said they are on Facebook, 49 percent are active on Google+ and 33 percent participate on Twitter. Eighteen percent are not on social media at all.
However, only a very small segment (6.6 percent) was paying for any social media advertising or marketing services. Only 7 percent are tapping into paid promotions on Facebook, and just 1 percent uses Twitter. Of those currently not paying for social media promotion or advertising, just 20 percent indicated they were “very likely” to do so in the next six months.
As for mobile marketing and advertising, just 8 percent of the small business owners said they pay for it, and 85 percent said they are unlikely or indifferent to exploring paid mobile advertising services in the next three to six months. There is slightly more interest in mobile payment options like Square and PayPal. Fourteen percent said they are using Square and 20 percent are using PayPal. An additional 11 percent plan to start using a mobile transaction service in the next three to six months.
In light of the still-struggling economy, respondents said they plan to do their part to help stimulate the recovery. More than 23 percent said they want to increase their headcount in the next six months; that figure is up from 21 percent a year ago. Half plan to maintain their current headcount, while only eight percent will be reducing their number of employees, a drop of 5 percent from last year.
As a small business owner, what have the results been for you in your efforts with social media?