Social Media & Small Business – Game Over?
Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business segment was quoted in the piece:
“What this survey indicates to us is small businesses are very, very focused on running their business and on generating sales and managing their cash flow and doing the things that are really important, especially in these economic times,” Veltre said. “I don’t think quite yet the social media piece of it has proven to be as significant.”
Beyond the fact that we could venture to say that these “really important” things are always the drivers for small businesses, I think the sentiment of the article is entirely off the mark. What the low numbers really highlight is nothing more than the natural evolution of small business on its way into another “new” internet marketing arena. Some small businesses *are* currently using social media to profitable ends. However, when it comes to online marketing adoption, the small business segment at large has always ridden the back end of the curve.
While spending my own time stoking the fires of Local Internet Marketing between 2003 and 2006 – which was heavily focused on helping small business owners buy into the benefits of smartly executed paid search marketing and local business data optimization – I found that small businesses were not able to “buy in” until a clear and easy path was laid before them – two things which don’t currently exist in the social media landscape at all (we’re not talking about how simple it is to create an account on Twitter here). Small business owners don’t often want to be guinea pigs. With small exception, they don’t have the bandwidth, or the disposable budget to be marketing trail blazers.
The industry has a long way to go when it comes to solving the equation of mass small business adoption into social media, and until it gets there we are likely to see a skewed opinion coming out of polls and research. We haven’t even figured out universally consistent tools, measures, ROI, or margins when it comes to all this stuff; this to say nothing of the need to develop a tangible message which resonates with small businesses across the board. All of these things were of critical importance as solution providers stepped in to successfully bring Search Engine Marketing to small businesses in scalable mass.
All of this is coming, but it could well be a year or two off before the communal mind of small business appreciates social media as a tangible and fundamental portion of their advertising efforts.