SMBs Embrace Social Media Marketing, Study Finds

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Social media topped the list of marketing channels used by small and midsize businesses (SMBs) for the third year running, according to a survey conducted by BIA/Kelsey—and the number is only rising.

This year, 77.6 percent of the SMBs surveyed used social media to promote their businesses—up from 73.2 percent last year. More specifically, 45 percent of businesses surveyed have Facebook pages, 24.2 percent use LinkedIn, and 23.9 percent use Twitter. Furthermore, 25 percent advertise on Facebook, and small businesses as a group are shifting from simply having a presence on social media to actively using social ads and video content to engage with consumers.

Facebook ads “are reaching populations that are associated with a particular interest; you can really target Facebook demographically, geographically, and by subject interest,” says Mark Fratrik, senior vice president and chief economist at BIA/Kelsey. “Obviously use of Facebook is incredible by a large segment of the population, and [SMBs] can really make an affordable, effective buy with Facebook ads, if [their marketing efforts] are targeted geographically or demographically or by interests.”

Fratrik points out that other advertising channels can also accomplish such targeting, but social media in general and Facebook in particular can help with the kind of localized micro-targeting that proves especially useful to SMBs.

Photo and video messaging platform Snapchat is another social media channel that SMBs are rapidly adopting. According to Fratrik, this correlates with the platform’s exponential increase in consumer adoption. “The increasing use [of Snapchat] by SMBs to market and advertise follows the usage by consumers of this platform,” he says. “It’s not surprising to see Snapchat becoming more popular as a social media platform in addition to or substituting for Facebook.”

Fratrik goes on to note that Snapchat offers the same types of benefits as Facebook, allowing businesses to target their communications with consumers geographically or by interests. Snapchat, he adds, “is growing quickly, and we see it evolving as much as Facebook has evolved. It’s a way to get to consumers with targeted [communications].”

Furthermore, because Snapchat is largely visual, marketers can grab users’ attention by offering interactive components, such as custom filters, and incorporating videos into their campaigns.

Video content in general is becoming a larger part of SMBs’ marketing efforts, largely because of its consumer appeal. “Consumers like video. It incorporates sight, sound, and motion, [and is] a really good way to get your message out,” Fratrik says.

He also points out that video has become a very cost-effective advertising medium. “SMBs now have avenues to really target [their video communications, and] the marketplace has developed where you can use some stock video footage and some personal video at a very reasonable price. You can even generate the video yourself, if you have an iPhone,” he says.

Overall, Fratrik expects the use of targeted social media marketing campaigns to continue to increase, with a focus on engaging consumers via mobile devices. “Localized, targeted, social advertising is going to continue to grow. More and more SMBs are becoming more sophisticated about it. We’re very bullish about this part of the advertising marketplace.”

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