Survey: 70 Percent Of SMBs Embrace Social Media, Seemingly Indifferent To Other Marketing Channels

social-media-network-peopleA new survey of small business (SMB) members of the local directory and lead-gen site Merchant Circle (owned by finds that a majority are using social media to promote themselves. Yet only small minorities are doing anything else; and most survey respondents resist paying for advertising or other marketing services.

The online survey ran during the final two weeks of September and had just over 3,400 responses. There were a range of industries represented among the respondents.

Much of the focus and PR push is around SMB confidence, hiring outlook and the question of whether respondents support Romney or Obama. However, those issues are less interesting than what respondents said about their online marketing efforts.

Most of these SMBs spent at least three hours per week marketing their businesses. The single largest group reported spending at least five hours per week marketing.

Source: Merchant Circle/ (September, 2012)

These SMB respondents were enthusiastic adopters of social media sites especially Facebook (Merchant Circle is a kind of social directory site). This is consistent with other SMB survey data in the market.

While nearly 70 percent said they were on Facebook, the Google+ number is interesting and surprisingly high (49.2 percent). This may be the result of the shift from Google Places to Google+ Local.

Even as a majority of SMBs were using Facebook and other social media tools, only a tiny fragment were paying for any social media advertising or marketing services (6.6 percent). However 20.2 percent of those not currently paying for social media promotion or advertising indicated they were “very likely” to do so in the next six months.

Source: Merchant Circle/ (September, 2012)

There were a number of questions that explored SMB usage of “review sites” (e.g., Yelp) and daily deals. Those findings were not especially interesting. The short version is that Yelp was the most popular of the review sites and the overwhelming majority of respondents had not run daily deals and weren’t interested in doing so.

Approximately 30 percent of the survey respondents said they had a mobile site or app. This is higher than the general SMB market; it’s also apparently contradicted by a later response (see graphic below) indicating only 17.2 percent had a mobile website or app.

Only 8.3 percent of the SMB respondents said they currently paid for mobile marketing or advertising. And roughly 85 percent said they were unlikely or indifferent to “exploring paid mobile advertising services in the next 3 – 6 months.”

In answer to the question, “How likely are you to explore building a mobile website or mobile app for your business in the next 3 – 6 months?” only 16.3 percent said they were “very likely” to do so. In contrast, 40.8 percent said they were “very unlikely” to take such action. Another 25.6 percent said they were “indifferent” to mobile.

Source: Merchant Circle/ (September, 2012)

Those responses are surprising given the rise of consumer usage of mobile devices especially for local search. They suggest these businesses are either unaware or overwhelmed and simply can’t address mobile as a channel.

The questions and data don’t seem to have explored paid search marketing or SEO interest and activities. A more extensive and complete Q4 2011 Merchant Circle survey found that SEO was the most important marketing channel among a range of choices that included paid search, mobile, social and traditional media.

This is just one survey and its questions failed to explore some important areas. Nonetheless, the results offer a picture of an SMB population that is enthusiastic about using Facebook and other free social media tools but either indifferent, unable or unlikely to use most everything else.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Features & Analysis | Statistics: Mobile Marketing | Statistics: Online Advertising | Statistics: Social Media | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Pat Grady

    “shiny objects for cheapskates” = “marketing for SMBs”?

  • David Chevalier

    Thanks Greg – Interesting data from Merchant Circle/ I would have liked to have seen the breakdown of SMBs who were lumped together under five or more hours per week. For example, I wonder how many are marketing their businesses 10+ hours per week.

  • influential

    Twitter is too brief for many people to get meaningful interaction and it is overrun with spam – G+ has a nice mix of plenty of content and almost all real people. FB seems to have virus issues lately.

    Why are SMBs using social media – its is cheap/free (until you count your time, which many small business owners don’t do).

  • Chad A. Buie

    I think for reputation management and interactivity; social media is a key part to any small business using the Internet platform to reach people. Even if a business used offline t.v. marketing during prime t.v., connecting with people at a one-on-one level with other engaged audience members is what consumers want now-a-days. I have talked in my own network about search agencies using or rolling out a program to do just that.

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