Is Social Media Marketing Right for Small Business?

The general feeling has been that social media marketing is beneficial for SMBs. And indeed, marketing gurus have been prescribing social media engagement to SMBs as an obvious no-brainer.

Nielsen’s recent Social Media Report, however, has some marketers questioning the value of social media marketing for SMBs.

Nielsen’s survey found that, besides connecting with family and friends, 68% of social media users go to social networking sites to read product reviews, and more than 50% use the sites to provide product feedback.  Other top purposes were entertainment (67%), as a creative outlet (64%), to learn about products (58%), and to get coupons or promotions (54%).

These findings caused Greg Sterling to ask whether SMBs were wasting their time on social media. As Sterling wrote, “The rush by SMBs into Facebook and, to a lesser degree, other social media sites (e.g., Twitter) is well documented by me and others. But is it misplaced?”

The Nielsen data, Sterling argued, shows that creating a showcase of customer reviews/responses and offering deals are things most aligned with consumer usage of social media sites. Everything else, he said, “may be misplaced effort.”  The survey data, he said, casts doubt on the efficacy of social media for lead-generation and customer acquisition for local merchants.

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Erin Iwata supports Sterling’s view, arguing that social media may not be appropriate for many SMBs. Although the Facebook “Like” button is ubiquitous, she says, “it doesn’t necessarily follow that Faceboook is right for your business.” The decision factors should include your audience, budget, and business objectives.  

Nielsen’s findings may indicate a need to overturn our thinking, said Sterling. “I believe that social media can be effectively used as a CRM tool; however the current expectations may be too great vs. what it can deliver — especially for SMBs.”

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