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Social Media Networks and the Impact on Small Business

There’s been an interesting debate of recent times about social media networks and their impact on the search process. With the increasing number of people using social media sites to communicate with other users, research brands and receive advice via their social network, forum or blog sites, have they abandoned the traditional search process in favour of social networks.

That’s looking from the consumer side, and I’ve not doubt that in the future, we might well see some movement in current searching trends, given the amount of advertising now appearing on Facebook and the other social networks, but what has been the impact of social network sites on small business and owners?

I’ve been monitoring this for some time now and whilst the social networks do have an influence on consumers, they don’t appear to have any real impact on business. In a new survey released by the Citibank/Gfk Roper group, over 76% of small business owners have not found social networks to be helpful in generating business leads or for expanding their business, during the past year. 86% of the business owners surveyed also responded that they had not used social networking sites to get business advice or information.

The survey of 500 small business owners across the US, found that despite widespread consumer use and the increase in marketing efforts by larger corporations into sites such as Facebook,MySpave and Linkedin, small business appears to have largely ignored the social networks.

The survey found that general search engine sites such as Google and Yahoo trump social networks, small-business-focused sites and general business destinations where business owners go to seek business advice or information. Some 61% of respondents say they still rely on search-engine sites to get business information.

Additional survey findings:

 

  • 42% of small business owners and managers reported that in the past year they have made greater use of their company’s website to generate business leads and sales.
  • Among companies with 20-99 employees, this percentage rises to 57% reporting they have made greater use of their website.
  • Survey respondents are using email marketing (28%) and online advertising (25%) to generate business leads and sales.

One interesting result from this survey, is small business has finally realised the need to inject funds into their web sites, making them both SEO and consumer friendly.

The survey suggests that small business owners are still finding their way with social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their business. ThisĀ  might be all about to change though, with marketing advisers to small business now cutting the more traditional forms of marketing and advertising and using lower cost, on line marketing to save money.

In my observations working with business, social media’s growth in the past 12 months has completely overwhelmed them, and combined with a lack of knowledge on how to use this medium in their business, they have ignored it, hoping it might go away. The problem for small business with this, is if you don’t start to adopt social networks, you do face the prospect of becoming irrelevant to your customers.

They are moving faster than you are, so at some stage they will be so far ahead, they won’t need you anymore as they will impacted by advertising and consumer advice and reviews on brands and purchases, via their social network.