In recent years internet marketing has supplanted most other marketing efforts for businesses of all sizes. A wealth of research has emerged studying the use of digital marketing by large companies. However, as we looked into various studies, we found a lack of research on how it is used by small businesses.
Starting in 2010 we decided to fill that void by conducting our own research. Since then we’ve conducted an annual survey of small businesses. Over the last six years we’ve seen dramatic shifts in how businesses incorporate internet tools into their marketing, with an explosion of social platforms, a resurgence of email marketing and the birth of inbound marketing.
This year’s study was conducted online from December 1 – December 15, 2015. Links to the survey were shared via various social media outlets, as well as via email and publicized on this site. This year we received 244 responses from small business representatives. For the purpose of this study, we define a small business as a company with less than 100 Full-Time Employees (FTE).
What We Learned:
It is all about time
One of biggest changes this year was the impact of time. Almost half the respondents indicated they spend 30 minutes or less on social media. This reluctance to spend time seems to influence their preferred platforms, and we saw a dramatic shift away from time-consuming Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn which can be managed in just a few minutes a day.
Testing the advertising waters
Social media isn’t free. In recent years Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have all beefed up their advertising offerings. So, are small businesses jumping on the advertising bandwagon? It seems that they are.
About 50% of the respondents have spent money on advertising in the past or are currently spending money on advertising. Will more companies give it a try in 2016? It doesn’t seem so, with only 23% indicating they have future plans to spend on social advertising next year.
Facebook advertising vehicle of choice
With lots of choices available, where are they spending their money? Right now Facebook is the clear winner. It is interesting that companies are turning to Facebook more than twice as often as they turn to Google.
Why? Perhaps it is an indication of the usability of the platform and the level of comfort most people have with Facebook. LinkedIn is a distant second falling somewhere between the two.
I was disappointed in many of the results from this year’s study. As I look at the data it seems small business owners don’t have a realistic picture of their online marketing. They believe they are spending more time than they actually are. They also seem to be spending time on activity, not productive activity as they choose simple, superficial activities.
2018 Study –
We are in data collection mode for the 2018 study. The short 20 question survey will take just five minutes to complete. When you are done we will share a copy of the 2016 study with you.