eMarketer estimates that 127 million people in the US, or 57.5% of internet users, will use social networks at least monthly this year. Facebook alone has over half a billion active users worldwide. Still, many of the smallest businesses don’t believe their customers can be marketed to on such sites, according to an August 2010 survey from customer review platform RatePoint.
Respondents, the majority of whom were business owners with just one to five employees, were split on whether social media was a quick way to connect with current or future customers, but sentiment was largely negative. When asked if they thought customers wanted to hear from them on social sites, only a quarter of businesses thought they did.
Attitudes of US Small Businesses Regarding Connecting with Customers via Social Media, Aug 2010 (% of respondents)
In addition, 20% of small businesses did not think their customers spent time on social networking sites; another 27% were undecided. And nearly a quarter did not believe their customers did research online before doing business with their company.
Attitudes of US Small Businesses Regarding the Online Behavior of Their Customers, Aug 2010 (% of respondents)
With a majority of US internet users on social networks, chances are the customers of even small local businesses are there. According to BIA/Kelsey and ConStat, 97% of US internet users used online media to look for local products and services in Q1 2010, and 90% used search engines. Research from comScore and TMP Directional Marketing shows that, looking for local businesses, searchers are much more likely to use a search engine than a social networking site as their primary resource, but both are used, especially among young people.
“Social media use is no longer limited to one demographic; everyone is adopting,” said Neal Creighton, CEO and co-founder of RatePoint, in a statement. “While many small-business owners are uncertain, big brands are investing heavily in social media. Social media can be a great equalizer for small businesses to compete alongside larger brands and SMBs are missing out if they are not involved.”