Small, midsize businesses spend more on social media than other channels

They’re turning more to social media promotion than to other channels; how does this affect marketing and PR pros?

Social media is now the top target for marketing dollars for small and midsize businesses, beating out billboards and traditional advertising, according to a survey conducted by research firm BIA/Kelsey.

The firm surveyed 550 small and midsize businesses—all companies with 100 employees or fewer—and found that about 75 percent use social media for promotional purposes.

These businesses aren’t using social media sporadically. Survey respondents reported spending 21.4 percent of their total media budget on social media in the past year, compared with the 18.5 percent spent on print and outdoor advertising.

Steve Marshall, director of research at BIA/Kelsey, told Advertising Age:

Social [media] is now the dominant media category for SMBs. It’s a convenient and user-friendly platform by which they can connect with their local market. It’s very inexpensive—which is a big deal—and there are low participation barriers.

Here are a few other takeaways:

1. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are the go-to platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn were the most popular social media channels, with 55 percent of businesses surveyed using Facebook pages and 31 percent using LinkedIn ads.

However, Facebook advertising tied with Twitter as the third-most-used platforms for business social media promotion.

2. Social media and traditional media are mixing. Small and midsize businesses not only are using social media platforms to build brand awareness, but also integrate traditional tactics such as coupons, discounts, and direct mail into their digital strategies.

This connection increases when businesses look to mobile social media use and employ apps to distribute promotions.

3. Social media ROI is still misunderstood. Although the survey showed that small and midsize businesses turn to social media for promotion, many still question its ROI.

Only 26.5 percent of survey respondents rated social media platforms as “extraordinary” or “excellent” in terms of giving them a return.

That means PR and marketing pros still must find and calibrate measurement and analytics tools to accurately determine the value of social media.

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