87 Percent of Small Businesses Say Social Media Helps; I Say That Number Could Be Higher

Filed in Social Media, Statistics by Matt McGee on September 20, 2012 5 Comments

social-media-conversationAlmost nine out of 10 small business reps say social media has been helpful to their business, but other stats in the same survey lead me to think that number could be even higher.

The numbers come from a recent Vocus/Duct Tape Marketing survey of 400 decision makers at small- and medium-sized business and organizations. This wasn’t uber-small mom and pops, it was organizations with annual revenues between $5 million and $50 million (USD). The survey was conducted from July 18th to July 28th.

In the survey, 29 percent said social media “helped a great deal” and 58 percent said it “helped somewhat” — that’s the 87 percent total. Ten percent said social media had no effect on their business.

But here’s why I think that 87 percent figure could be even higher: The vast majority of respondents are using social media to pump out self-promotional updates about their company, products and services … while less than half are using social media to provide customer service.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing news about your business, that’s part of why we’re all using social networks. But you’re not very followable if that’s all you do. And a lot of SMBs tend to underrate the value of doing customer service via social media.

I wrote last year about a survey of Twitter complainers, and you may remember that 83 percent liked or loved being contacted after they complained! A simple reply via social media can work wonders. That’s why I think the 87 percent number could be higher — social media could be helpful to even more SMBs if they valued it for customer service reasons, not just sales/promotional reasons.

One other stat — or bunch of stats — from the survey. This chart shows which social networks SMBs are using the most.


Not much surprising in there, I’d say. Well, the usage of Google+ (44 percent) is a bit surprising, I guess. Interesting to see Pinterest at the 20 percent level, too.

Anything surprise you in these stats? Or any thoughts on the promotion vs. customer service issue above? Comments are open.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Comments (5)

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  1. Matt:

    I’m surprised to see Google+ is at 44% but I suspect a large chunk of that is Google+ Local (not actually using Google+ to socially engage). I’m also surprised to see Blogger ahead of Pinterest. Who the hell uses Blogger these days? 22% of businesses I guess…lol.

    I’m torn on the customer service issue. I personally don’t think customer service issues should be handled publicly. Call me old school, but I’d prefer a direct (and quick) PRIVATE line of communication with a business on customer service issues. And I suspect businesses would prefer the same. Having said that, I realize providing customer service via a social channel can be very effective.

    Travis Van Slooten

  2. Orlee Berlove says:

    I notice that Facebook is the most used. However, this does NOT mean that it is the most effective. How does a company determine which is the most effective social media tool for them?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Orlee, I think you determine the most effective social channel the same way you do any other marketing channel — trial and error. You don’t know if radio advertising is going to work for you until you try it and measure it, right? Same way with social channels. You research where your audience is, you put together a smart plan for engaging with them, and you measure its effectiveness. And if it’s not working, you analyze why and adjust accordingly — either with new strategies and tactics, or on different channels.

  3. Frank Strong says:

    Hi Orlee, I think you are right and we tried to get at this a couple different ways in the study, by asking general “is it helpful” questions, but also drilling down on tangible measures. Facebook ranked #2 most effective with about 46% in terms of effectiveness (see slide #17 of the study) and trailed only Google+. The latter has few followers, but earned a couple of percentage points higher on the “helpfulness” scale.

  4. Facebook shown to be the dominant network is not really surprising. Didn’t they just pass 1 billion users? How beneficial it will be to one’s business venture, however, is debatable. Facebook effectiveness seems to be based on the popularity a brand has prior to creating a page. We are a relatively new brand and our experience has been less than stellar within the past few months. Page visitors have viewed our content, but we have not seen much in the way of new business. As we grow and become more established, we hope the metrics will improve.

    I’m also not sure people want customer service via a FB page. Browsers are usually curious about what may be interesting and new from the brand, but I believe there is less of a commercially-driven mindset than would be the case from a typical Web site visitor. Timeliness also doesn’t seem to be as much of a factor as it would be via, for example, Twitter.


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