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Yesterday I was a panelist for the Salt Lake City Social Media Club. We talked about small business marketing and PR. Right before leaving I read my friend Chris‘s tweets from a SEMPO (a search engine marketing organization) webinar he was listening to:

  1. SEMPO: On average, companies expect to spend 43% more on SEO in 2010 than they did in 2009. We can help @seocom :)
  2. SEMPO: Most important trends in digital marketing: Video, local search, personalized search, and mobile.
  3. SEMPO: Most companies social media strategy consists of an FB page and Twitter account. 11% use myspace. 16% Wikipedia. 
  4. SEMPO: 50% of companies say social media has had impact on business. 27% report no impact. 10% report “huge” impact.
  5. SEMPO: 38% of companies have a hard time making business case for continued investment in social media. I think that number is low.
  6. SEMPO: 42% of companies surveyed have hard time measuring SEO ROI. Fail. SEO ROI is easier to measure than most marketing methods.
  7. According to SEMPO 62% using social media to measure brand awareness, which – IMO – is incredibly difficult to measure. Disconnect? ROI?
  8. SEMPO: Companies are struggling to figure out how to maximize their social media efforts. Most are confused over strategy. 
  9. SEMPO: 51% of companies use social media to increase brand awareness and manage reputation. 16% use it for lead generation.
  10. SEMPO: 53% of companies surveyed use Bing paid search network – stealing market share from Yahoo. Google Adwords still rules. 
  11. SEMPO: 30% of companies surveyed moving budget money away from radio advertising to SEO
  12. SEMPO: 69% of companies surveyed shifting newspaper and magazine print ad dollars to SEO budgets
  13. SEMPO: Only 13% of companies plan to double or more than double their social media budget in 2010 compared to 2009.

This doesn’t paint a great picture for social media, but it does for SEO. But I do have to note that the source is a search engine marketing company. I also work for an SEO company – OrangeSoda. We do social media consulting – because having active profiles on social networks is good for search results – because search engines look for fresh content.

What I pointed out yesterday is that the problem for small businesses is that social media is a HUGE time commitment. It’s an ongoing commitment. You’ve got to be consistently involved. Even though some purists say not to, I say use every tool available to make it easier. If that’s too much, then maybe working with people who are active may be a better choice than joining in.

In an article about social media for small businesses on CNN it says,

“Maintaining constant, and genuine, dialogue with customers who are on the Internet around-the-clock can be both time consuming and exhausting, requiring extra resources that small companies may not have.”

– Matthew Yeomans, director of UK-based social media strategy firm Custom Communication.

Stephen Leighton, owner of “Has Bean Coffee,” a UK-based Internet coffee-roasting business that has a worldwide following. How? with social media. But look at the time commitment for his results: “he spends up to 17 hours a day, seven days a week, updating his coffee video blog, talking to audiences on Twitter and responding to every email he receives.”

That’s several thousand $$ (I figure about $7-9k on the low end) a month in time spent. Plus it’s not good for relationships  to work those kind of hours (you’re probably sacrificing your family and social life). I wonder if it’s bringing that kind of return. Also, how much would that same business spend on advertising in a month? Does this replace that budget or is all the budget being spent on social media?

I’m not saying that everyone must contribute that much time – but it gives you an idea that it’s going to be hours. If you don’t have a lot to say, don’t know what you want to accomplish and can’t measure the impact, is it worth it? Probably not. But if you have a lot to say and need a platform to reach your customers and you want to engage with them or answer their questions, social media can be ideal. Whether it’s worth your time is a question every business must answer.

For some, social media is a silver bullet, but for most it’s another marketing tool (though a pretty fun one). For me, social media made my entire career. Without my blog and Twitter very few people would know who I am. But because of the exposure it’s given me I’ve built a reputation, gotten jobs, written a book, launched businesses, etc. Plus I’ve loved doing it. I found it hard to stop. Hours would fly by.

Social media can do the same for your business as it has for me – put you on the map and build your reputation and visibility.

If you are a small business how has social media helped you? Or, if you haven’t gotten involved, why not?

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3 Responses to “Social Media for Small Businesses – Is it Effective?”

  1. Chris Says:

    Janet,

    You seem to be implying that as an SEO I am trying to paint social media in a bad light.

    I’m not.

    The SEMPO survey speaks for itself. That report also indicated that 33% of companies consider social media part of their SEO strategy. Furthermore, at SEO.com we do social and consider it an important part of any companies search marketing strategy.

  2. Online PR Says:

    Chris,
    I’m not saying that at all – I’m saying that when the data comes from a search engine organization you should take that into account.

    I’m a huge fan of SEO. The numbers on social media are disheartening. I’m suggesting that it’s not for everyone. You need to be aware of the commitment. SEO doesn’t come with such a huge commitment and as you pointed out is easier to measure.

    I’d say, for those who have something to say, do both. If there it’s too much to do both I’d choose SEO.

    I didn’t know SEO,com did social too. Good to know.

    – Janet

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