Monday, August 02, 2010

Social Media And Business Survey Results

The Survey

I recently ran a survey on social media and online presence generally for business and found the exercise quite illuminating. If you are wondering about what your market is thinking about a topic, then asking them is a much better strategy than guessing and it gives one the opportunity to get additional feedback, which can turn up valuable insights.


My sample was fairly small so not statistically significant, however it did address the questions that I was wanting to cover, and as a first attempt I was fascinated to see what the responses would be. Again, the answers can not be interpreted as being applicable to all business since it occured online and the selection bias would dictate that the respondents are more computer savvy than many small business owners would be. And yet even with these caveats, the answers defined a picture that I would not have had otherwise.

The Responses

The survey was responded to by 71 people and some of the questions had multiple answers so responses may total more than 100%.

 
As expected, given the characteristics of the group answering the survey, most (80%) are using social media for marketing
Yes
5780%
No
1115%
Not yet but I want to
46%
The time respondents have been using social media for business shows that the majority are fairly new to this (not really surprising since it is a relatively new environment), with only 20.9% using social media for longer than 2 years, and 15.21% not yet using social media in their business promotion.

Availability of social media as an option being relatively short, it is reasonable to expect that the take-up ( and results obtained from marketing over time), should increase as presence online grows and businesses start to gain some 'critical mass' that can take a little time when starting from scratch. 

Not using yet
1521%
Under 1 year
2637%
More than 1 year but less than 2 Years
1014%
More than 2 years
1318%
More than 5 years
710%


More of the respondents had a website (60%). On the question of Facebook for business, almost as many answered that they were using their personal Facebook page, for business, as those using a dedicated Brand page to promote their business. Whether this means those responding were actively promoting business on their personal page or not, is not clear. Neither is it possible to know if those who are using their personal page are aware of the pitfalls of doing so for business.

Preferred platforms that respondents had chosen were:


Twitter
4665%
Facebook Personal Page
3955%
Facebook Brand Page
4259%
Email marketing to my business list
2535%
Linkedin
4563%
Website
6085%
Online community or forum
2637%
Other
2028%

On the question: Which of these statements is most true for you?

I have a written strategy for my online marketing
3245%
I don't have an online marketing strategy
3448%
I would like an online strategy as part of my marketing plan but I don't know how to start
57%
I don't believe social media is good for business
00%

This was interesting and showed that while many are using some kind of social media to promote their business, slightly more have no defined strategy for their business activites online. As well, some are unsure how to start, even though they would like to be strategic in their approach.

Interestingly, on this question, nobody expressed doubt that social media is good for business.

Online Presence:


I have a basic website
4462%
I have a website with shopping cart
1521%
I have a website that is interactive
1927%
I have a blog
3448%
I have a Facebook Brand Page
4361%
Directory listings
3346%
Twitter
4259%
I am nowhere to be found online
00%
Other
811%

On updating content: 

Less than once per week
1217%
Less than once per month
1623%
Daily
2839%
I never update anything
34%
I have nothing to update
11%
Other
1825%

On Methods Of Promoting Online Presence Offline:

Have website on my business card
6490%
Show website address on all correspondence, and inside premises
00%
Have special deals for my website that I advertise
1115%
I don't tell anyone about my online presence
46%
Other
118166%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

So, most people are promoting their online presence offline, yet nobody identified they are showing their web addresses on all their correspondence and inside their premises.

It remains a mystery what "Other" means people are using. 


Newsletters And Beliefs Around Social Media


On: What Kind Of Newsletter Do You Send Out?

I don't have a newsletter
4158%
I send a newsletter from Outlook as a pdf file
34%
I use a professional email newsletter online program
1825%
Other
1521%


Significantly, 58% identified having no newsletter through which they are building their mailing list.


On: Social Media Marketing Can Be Good For Local Business

Yes
6085%
No
00%
Maybe
913%
Not sure
23%
Not Applicable
00%

 

Learning to sell more or attract more people to buy from me would be good for my business
Yes
6693%
No
00%
Maybe
34%
Not sure
00%
Not Applicable
23%

I am not sure if my website is doing a good job or not.  

Yes
1318%
No
2637%
Maybe
1521%
Not sure
1014%
Not Applicable
710%

There seems a consensus that being visible online is a good thing for business. Yet we see a disconnect here between being present online and confidence in the effectiveness of that effort expended.  Moreover while 93% described learning to sell more online as being a value, it isn't reflected in budget allocation for aquiring such skills.

It is likely that there is little or no means in place to measure efficacy or return on effort and resources expended, or perhaps the "not sure" and "maybe" responses may have been reported less frequently.

We have no way to tell from this question, if those answering understand the importance of social engagement in addition to visibility online.  Again, the problem with my original question means that it is open to interpretation whether some of the respondents mean 'yes they are not sure' or 'no they are not sure' if their website is doing a good job! 

Taking a punt on the responses (well, mindreading might be a better term for it!), I'm inclined to conclude that a better means of measuring results would be useful for many businesses. Benchmarking generally and specifically against previous results could be important. This is of course, also true for marketing and other business key performance indicators as it is for web marketing.




I find it easy to create new content regularly
Yes
2941%
No
2028%
Maybe
1318%
Not sure
34%
Not Applicable
68%


We see from these responses that many are finding it less than easy to create new content regularly. In practice this is likely to be higher and a considerable dilemma for those beginning to market their business online and deliver content on a regular basis and of consistently good quality.

I find time to update my online content and engage in social media
Yes
4361%
No
1623%
Maybe
913%
Not sure
00%
Not Applicable
34%

This shows a reasonable commitment to making time for updating online content, again more to be expected from someone using social media already and having some understanding of the requirements of online social media marketing.  It is likely, but needs to be tested, that this figure is much higher than it would be for a business owner not already engaged in social media or 'sold' on the idea of social media marketing.


I have a budget allocated for my website and online presence 
Yes
3346%
No
2941%
Maybe
34%
Not sure
23%
Not Applicable
46%

I am confident that my online strategy is working

Yes
2028%
No
1420%
Maybe
2535%
Not sure
1014%
Not Applicable
23%

Numbers for those who have a budget for their web presence is less than 50% but still somewhat encouraging. That said, we have no data to see if the budget is realistic or in line with investments in marketing in other avenues. Nevertheless there is still a high percentage who have no budget dedicated to develop their online business.

This does not seem to reflect a deep understanding of the potential for online sales,  as an additional profit centre for a business, given the ability of the internet to be a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week sales channel.



Concerns About Social Media For Business

Not all respondents to the survey expressed concerns about social media for business. Of those who registered a concern, the responses included: (Responses are reproduced as written)

My concern is not for social media (although I note there are many who fear the evil internet and will not use it or entertain it as a networking measure - so the population appealed to is only partial)... my main concern is to NOT be like a money-spinning business, but rather a more organic expression of self (that somehow makes enough to support oneself) - thus not focused on business-like considerations and objectives...

My only concerns are based on my lack of focus and biz planning skills

I am grossly concerned that a lot of people waste precious time, money, and resources investing in schemes and businesses for all the wrong reasons

I feel i am doing everything I can; have engaged a social media professional to set up initially. Have no money to spend at this stage but everything starting to bear fruit!!!


It is mostly done by people who are only doing it because everyone else is!


Tyrekickers


People will tune out to it


Finding time to set it up correctly and then being able to update it regularly.


Too much overload, scattered energy, not enough time to cover all corners adequately


I dont feel it suits every business. But any business would be crazy not to participate.


I think social media is a great way of promoting business, just need to know more about it and how it would work for my business.


I think businesses need to be careful they don't just 'jump in'. It's no different to any other form of marketing - it needs a plan and it needs to be right for them in order to achieve their goals.


To may want  my hard ard  dollars to promote what I do.....


Social media not living up to it's promised pit of gold at the end of the trail.  I don't believe there's a lot of hype, and from those with vested interests such as the digital sector.


Dont want to be blogging or Twitting just for the sake of getting a pointless message out. Dont want to open up social sites to staff for them to potentially watse time on their personal site, rather than the purpose it is intended for. (in your view as a business coach)


Still need to see the results of my work from social media. Would love to do a landing page for my facebook page but not sure at this point if I should invest on it or not.


Compliance, brand reputation


It's too much for people, ie overkill when I have as much work as I want/need.
I am considering growing my business and could employ others but am not sure I want to do this as I have a great work/life balance at the moment.



None. It's become part of my business as usual marketing.


No concerns at present - strategy is fully planned - have to develop more content


Social media has blown me away, it is definitely the way forward in marketing a product/service and finding those who are interested.


I am unsure how to go about using online and social media to help get business.


Return on invested time and money


time to service plan - lack of interest in web media


Time and privacy.


The physical time it takes to be involved 


Mostly a young persons communications source.


I think Social Media is an excellent medium for keeping clients updated and getting your name out there. Due to various circumstances within my business I have not yet used the full capacity of FB, LinkeIn etc, although I will be ramping this up in the next 3 months



It is extremely rewarding for exposure for the small business owner. I've had huge growth largely from Twitter but it equals fatigue and then too busy for social media! Any business owner needs a strategy and needs to commit to it to get the rewards and plenty just don't stick at it long enough.


Making sure I am getting it right. I guess I could be tracking it better


I think social media is good for business, if you know how to use it.  I think the hardest thing is targeting it in a cost effective way.  You want to make sure you know your target market, & then find out how to reach them.


I would like for more people to connect with me by comments. I would like to understand what I am doing wrong


the time cost has not quite cought up to the new customers coming in.


The hardest part is find time to post new information.


Idiots that could not design or seo their way out of a wet paper bag. 




Summation

There are several 'takeaways' for me from this exercise. Number one, is that it is much trickier to frame a survey to solicit answers with no potential for ambiguity in the response, than it seems. That's a learning and one that will lead me to be even more selective in the framing of questions for future surveys.

We see that while there is effort being made to engage in online social networks, that there is a gap in the attention to email newsletters, and to clearly promoting the online web properties, offline.

There is effort going into social media marketing but less into designing a strategy to optimise the performance of the activities.

While there is engagement and content being generated, there seems to be lack of willingness to invest real dollars into the medium and this could be a facet of the notion that 'everything is free online'.

Indeed many platforms are free to use and this can seduce people into thinking that it is simple and not necessary to pay for expertise in getting well set up. This can be successful, but many times is a trap for the unwary. The reality is that "free" platform can take a mountain of time and effort trying to learn along the way and open the potential to set back a serious attempt to build a successful online presence. This can be an example of extreme false-economy, and a "penny wise - pound foolish" approach.

On the subject of employees using social media in business we have some recognition that this could be a problem (as it could as easily be an opportunity) and a policy for this should be considered by every business, whether they decide to go online or not.


We're still in the early stages of social media for business and the environment changes daily. Keeping on top of the changes can require a lot of attention and study and may not be for everyone. If time is limited, then learning how to source people to help and allow you to best leverage the knowledge of people who do spend the time to keep abreast of changes, can save time and deliver more satisfying results.

There was surprisingly little mention (just one instance) where reputation was mentioned, and yet reputation monitoring and management are important elements of business online, and this is so whether the business is actively online or not.

Though there is much effort going into developing online presence on social media, only 15% are promoting special deals through their online social media properties. 

In closing it seems clear from the comments that there is some confusion for some in where to find help with developing their online strategy and generating a strong presence online. This is understandable, since there is no shortage of self proclaimed hotshot 'gurus' pushing their wares, as is the way of much marketing and hype.  It seems evident that business owners want to be able to make informed choices and address their marketing strategy effectively at last, with confidence and much less of the usual overblown hype and empty promises.


Have you approached your online business development with a strategy in mind?

Please add your comments if you'd like to share your experience with social media for business.



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