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June 2013

Small Businesses Upping Investments in Social Media

NWREporter June 2013

More small businesses are investing in social media, online advertising and marketing, despite mixed results and skepticism about the return on investment, according to survey conducted in late March.

About 61 percent of small businesses reported experiencing no return on investment from their social media activities.  Nevertheless, the survey by Manta, an online community for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), indicated social media involvement is trending upward. Its latest survey showed a rising number of businesses (now nearly 26 percent) are devoting more resources to social media.

Of the 39 percent of businesses reporting some ROI, most (40 percent) pegged the amount in the $100 to $1,000 range. Thirty percent said the yield was more than $2,000.

"As a highly pragmatic and time-constrained group, small business owners are strategically adopting platforms that show real results for their business," said Pamela Springer, CEO of Manta. "However, social media is not a stationary phenomenon. As SMBs shift from the experimental stage to a results-focused phase, their social media usage will evolve to maximize the value."

Owners of small businesses say they use social media with the expectation of acquiring new customers, gaining leads and referrals, and boosting awareness.

The 1,235 survey participants were also asked about intended investments for developing business.

Allocating business investment dollars
(anticipated expenditures in Q2 2013)
Activity Percent
Referral & engaging new customers 31%
Online advertising, marketing, social media 26%
Creating new product & service offerings 24%
Traditional addvertising & marketing 12%
Hiring new staff 5%
Mobile 2%

Allocating business investment dollars

Many businesses stated they fear losing customers if they don't interact with them on social media. About half the survey respondents said they are spending more time on social media compared to a year ago. More than one in three small business owners dedicate between one and three hours each week managing their social media channels, while 10 percent spend more than ten hours.

As more business owners increase their social media presence, they're encountering obstacles. Asked about the difficulties, 18 percent of SMBs said Facebook is the most difficult platform to maintain, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter. More than a third (36 percent) of businesses turn to online resources when they have questions about social media. A smaller percentage (22 percent) relies on their personal circles or third party experts (18 percent).

Owners of small businesses tend to be resourceful and independent when it comes to learning more about social media. Only 18 percent of SMBs ask for social media help from third-party experts, but twice as many (36 percent) turn to online resources.

Manta is the world's largest online community for promoting and connecting small business. It claims more than one million registered users and 87 million company profiles.