Social marketing picking up speed in small businesses

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The use of social media for marketing is apparently picking up speed with small businesses across the county, according to a study just released by Pitney Bowes. In fact, the April research shows that social media, at least by some measures, is beginning to rival even e-mail.

In the past, I have blogged here about the dominant benefits of e-mail. It’s still numero uno and the study backs that up. As reported by eMarketer Daily, 60 percent of the respondents to the Pitney Bowes research still rated e-mail highest as the most cost-effective and easiest to use. Surprisingly, however, the grand old online marketing channel (e-mail) was ranked ahead of social media by less than 10 percentage points. Notably, no other promotional format – direct mail, mobile marketing, advertising, etc. -- except social media approached e-mail.

Social media is apparently here to stay even as it’s still being developed as an attractive tool for small businesses. According to some experts, it may even overtake most other formats. But, the study indicates one of its current Achilles heels is its questionable “proven” effectiveness as a small business weapon. Notably, only 30 percent of the respondents ranked social media high in “proven” effectiveness, trailing advertising, e-mail and direct mail, in that order.

The other Achilles heel for social media is an uncomfortable feeling and lack of knowledge in this realm. Some 61 percent of those surveyed indicated it. Still its value for money spent is the reason the adoption of social media has come on so quickly. Pitney Bowes determined social media is now being used more frequently than direct mail. It was the new marketing tool most likely to have been adopted in the past year, the study showed, with 20 percent of the respondents having initiated a social media program.

There are plenty of service firms that can help get someone started on the social web -- for a fee, of course, some hourly, some monthly and all over the place. But that’s to be expected when it comes to information technology these days. Or, go to Amazon.com for a selection of books on the subject as a place to become more familiar with its potential.

Interestingly, which social medium did respondents to the Pitney Bowes study most commonly use? Facebook topped the list and was rated the most effective of any venue. No wonder – if Facebook was a country in terms of population, the world rankings would be: China, India, U.S. and Facebook! Think about it.

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