Social media doesn’t work for Small Businesses?

A USA today article, recently cited the failure of social media making any impact for small businesses. According to the report:

“About 61% of small businesses don’t see any return on investment on their social-media activities, according to a survey from Manta, a social network for small businesses. Yet, almost 50% say they’ve increased their time spent on social media, and only 7% have decreased their time. What businesses are trying to get out of social media: 36% said their goal was to acquire and engage new customers, 19% said to gain leads and referrals, and 17% said to boost awareness. Facebook was most cited as the hardest to maintain social-media platform, according to the survey.”

While the stats give food for thought, is it true to say that social media does not work? Magda Hercheui from the guardian writes: “Social media platforms have huge potential to foster innovation in businesses of any size. They offer a space in which companies and individuals can benefit from having access to creative clusters of professionals who are willing to share their ideas. However, this creative stock of ideas is very difficult to properly exploit, because there is also a huge level of fragmentation: the conversations are going on everywhere, all the time, and it can seem that you need significant resources to explore these virtual spaces properly.”

So, is it a lack of innovation that is truly holding small businesses back. Every business person on the planet knows about social media and its importance, but do they keep apace with its changing developments and truly understand how to leverage it? On the other hand, many may feel they have done enough by engaging a marketing firm, who in turn deploys a few social media profiles with some stats and that’s it. Another factor is the small business community’s expectations of social media platforms, how they’re using them and the reality of the technologies are simply not aligned. For example a Google+ profile for business may down the road be critical, but how many are investing time and effort in the present?  Big Firms are guilty of this as well.

Small business are interested in leads, which yes, can come with social media, ( learn to leverage twitter correctly) . But instead of ROI, expect Return on relationship, which takes longer, requires time/strategy and community building on your part, but ultimately will deliver higher quality leads. Perhaps it is the small business mindset that is truly to blame.

Radius Intelligence a San Francisco company that collects and analyzes small business data, studied information to determine the U.S. cities that have the greatest percentages of small businesses active on the Web and social media. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and is widely recognized for having a business-friendly environment,  yet determined that small Houston businesses are not incredibly active on social media. Perhaps this example is unique to one city, but the issue overall comes down to mentality:

“Many small business though, just don’t have a place in social media, says Stephanie Schwab, CEO of Crackerjack Marketing. They join because of peer pressure and media pressure even though they don’t understand what they’re trying to get out of a social-media campaign. Some businesses make the mistake of prioritizing social-media activities over marketing techniques already proved to work, such as having a website.”

Image credit: Manta