It’s almost scary how fast the term social has become a cliché. For the past few years, the word social has been attached to everything from media to gaming to consumerism – a trend that may be finally coming to an end.

Social is simply the new normal.

But as much as that fact is acknowledged, some decision makers – particularly in small business – still struggle with how they can use social media as part of an overall marketing strategy. There is still a reluctance or uncertainty about its value. A recent Zoomerang poll of 500 consumers and 1,180 small-to mid-sized business decision makers found that 44 percent of small businesses were using social media as part of their overall marketing effort.

They use it primarily for three reasons:

  • Connecting with customers
  • Visibility
  • Self-promotion

While those results were an improvement from previous studies, that still means that 56 percent are not using social media as part of their overall marketing efforts. They need to. The survey highlighted 4 compelling arguments for its use:

  1. New customers. More than 50 percent of small business decision makers reported gaining new customers through social media, most notable Facebook and LinkedIn.
  2. Followers are buyers. Roughly 51 percent of consumers Facebook users and 64 percent of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands they follow in social media.
  3. It’s cheap. Small business owners don’t have to spend much get incredible results. Nearly 60 percent of those using social media spend less than $100 on their social media efforts.
  4. It’s powerful. It can take just 20 people using their networks to bring an entire online community to action. Reaching out to 20 people is something almost any small business can do.

The question remains: why aren’t those other 56 percent using social media?

The answer may reside in a failure to realize the true power of social media – the ability it has to affect bahavior and influence decisions. It’s no longer about which channel is winning, but about how people spend their time connecting and interacting and what happens as a result.

Writing in The Social CMO Blog, Brian Solis notes there is a gap between what business leaders think their customers want and what their customers are really looking for.

“Much of their time (on social media) is spent in the pre-commerce phase of decision making, reading consumer feedback and learning about products,” Solis wrote. “At the point of decision, they seek to obtain coupons and promotions. Post commerce, they’re actively posting positive or negative feedback, thus influencing the decisions of other.”

Are you in the 44 percent who get it or the 56 percent still waiting on the sidelines?

To learn more about the role social media plays in inbound marketing, check out our free download:

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