Small business owners are feeling good about 2013 so far and even more optimistic about the year ahead, according to Manta’s Q1 2013 SMB Wellness Index. The survey of over 1,100 small business owners found more than half (56 percent) think the first quarter of 2013 was successful and 79 percent believe the second quarter will be positive for their companies.
While only 17 percent hired new employees in the first quarter of this year, almost one-third (31 percent) plan to do so in Q2. But that’s not where they’re putting most of their money. Thirty-one percent say they plan to invest most of their money on referrals and finding new customers; 26 percent on online advertising and social media; 24 percent on creating new products and services; and 12 percent on traditional advertising and marketing.
With the emphasis on finding new customers, it’s not surprising that small business owners are turning to social media. Some 49 percent have increased their time spent on social media compared to a year ago, and 36 percent of small business owners say their main goal with social media is finding new customers.
About one-third spend one to three hours each week managing their social media channels; 10 percent spend more than 10 hours. Over half (53 percent) report only one person at their companies handles social media; 21 percent say two to five people are involved.
Considering how stretched-thin most small business owners are, it’s no wonder they describe social media as a challenge. Eighteen percent report Facebook is the most difficult platform to maintain, followed by LinkedIn (10 percent) and Twitter (9 percent). Very few small business owners get help from social media experts or consultants, either; instead, they take a DIY approach, with 36 percent using online resources to learn about social media.
Social media use is maturing, with small business owners focusing less on just getting “likes” or followers and more on getting actual results. Some 40 percent of small business owners do report a return on their investment in social media, but it’s still pretty small: Only 30 percent report returns greater than $2,000. Whether that’s because they’re not properly tracking social media’s effect on the sales pipeline or because it’s having little real effect, remains to be seen.
Two areas of opportunity the report brought to my attention:
Mobile: Just 2 percent of SMBs in the study planned to spend most of their dollars on mobile marketing. Mobile isn’t for everyone, but if your business relies on local customers and your customers are tech-savvy, mobile can be one of the smartest ways to spend your money.
Social: One in five SMBs surveyed admit that “no one” handles social media at their companies. Even if you can only invest one hour a week in one social media channel, that’s better than nothing. I can hardly think of any business that wouldn’t benefit from social media to some degree – so if you’re still not in the social media game, it’s time to suit up and get out onto the playing field.
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