There’s been a boatload of survey data released in the past six months documenting the adoption of social media by US small businesses (SMBs). The numbers range from about 40 to 70 percent of SMBs reporting they’re using social media to some degree. Yet survey data aren’t always accurate because it’s challenging to get a “representative sample” of SMBs — the numbers are all over the place — and self-reported data can be based on misperception and aspirations.
However a new report from Palore, not relying on survey data, confirms that large numbers of SMBs are on social media. The data reveal that 58.2 percent of SMBs have a presence on either Facebook or Twitter, but only 22 percent are on both. I confirmed with Palore that the Facebook “presence” is a formal Page and not a personal profile in all cases.
Using webcrawling and other methods Palore, which provides competitive intelligence and leads to small business sales channels, looked at more than 1,110 SMBs in two business categories (restaurants and spas) in two US cities (Philadelphia and San Diego). It looked only at businesses with websites and eliminated all national chains from the sample. Separately, Palore’s corpus of data argue that roughly half of US small businesses now have websites.
What about Engagement?
The question immediately arises: how engaged or active are these SMBs? That’s a very challenging thing to determine. Palore used the number of Likes and followers to as a proxy for engagement. In this sample Palore found the following:
- SMBs with fewer than 100 Likes: 38.3 percent
- SMBs with more than 1000 Likes: 16 percent
- SMBs with fewer than 100 followers: 44.5 percent
- SMBs with more than 1000 followers: 18.5 percent
Palore suggested to me that at fewer than 100 Likes or followers there’s probably very limited activity and engagement. At the other end of the spectrum (more than 1,000) the opposite will likely be true. Indeed 1,000 Likes or followers for a small business suggests considerable activity and a focused effort toward social media.
These data thus argue that there are a substantial number of SMBs on Facebook with little or no engagement (38 percent) and an even greater percentage on Twitter (44.5 percent) that have very little activity. These data may also reflect that SMBs don’t know how to effectively acquire followers.
Fourteen Percent Have Offered Deals
Palore also took a look at the daily deals segment. It found, among this sample of SMBs, that about 14 percent had ever run a daily deal. It also found the average number daily deals offered by these businesses was 2.4 over the course of the past year. Other survey based data have shown a higher percentage of SMBs that have participated in daily deals (23 percent approximately).
Finally the company cross referenced daily deal SMBs and social SMBs. It found that 18 percent of the social SMBs (those on Facebook and/or Twitter) had offered deals (vs. 14 percent of the general sample). But among those offering deals it found that 76 percent were using social media. In other words social SMBs were more inclined to participate in daily deals than SMBs not on social media.
Solving the “Now What?” Problem
The Palore data support the survey findings that large numbers of SMBs are now using social media. Many business owners set up social media accounts because they’re free and they believe they should be using social to promote themselves. But once they get there they don’t know exactly what to do. This is what I’ve referred to in the past as the “now what? problem.”
The large number of SMBs with relatively few followers or Likes in the data above, which probably can be generalized more broadly, suggests that business owners still need lots of help and guidance to turn their otherwise lackluster Pages and accounts into effective social CRM and marketing platforms.