Many SMEs Question the Value of Social Media, Survey Finds

October 12, 2010 – 5:12 pm

A recent study found that 52% of Britain’s small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) use social media. However, 27% of those polled in the Forum of Private Business study expressed doubts about the value of the popular networking sites—21% described them as “not useful” and 6% went even further, labelling them “useless.”

An article summarising the survey’s findings explained that it was “surprising” that so many people described social media as “not useful.” I, for one, don’t find that finding particularly bewildering.

Now, it is true that social media’s rapid ascendency is nothing short of amazing. It is hard to argue that sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have been profoundly influential since they debuted a few short years ago. But, despite social media’s benefits and apparent allure, it is often the subject of criticism. Facebook, for instance, has been condemned for its privacy policy. Twitter, in particular, has been derided for being an often frivolous and clichéd communication medium. ”Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite the Iliad,” as tech writer Bruce Sterling put it. LinkedIn, which is one of the most business oriented among the social media platforms, has faced problems with spam.

I suspect that another reason some SMEs are hesitant to use social media is that they simply don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I for one, had a similar reaction when I first stumbled across Twitter a couple of years ago (I’ve come around now though. If you are interested, you can follow me at twitter.com/brian_buntz).

Returning to the the Forum of Private Business study: only 7% of respondents who use social media described it as “very useful” for their businesses; 18% were more reserved, agreeing that it was “useful.”

Forum Spokesman Phil McCabe explains: “It’s clear that, while a lot of our members are certainly trying out social media for their businesses, many remain unconvinced of its benefits.”

Social media does have a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s free. And extremely easy to use. But how should a company use social media to best connect with its customers or build up a brand identity? That’s a question with no clear, single answer.

“Small businesses are a diverse bunch and what works for one company may well not be suitable for another,” McCabe says. “So it’s likely that our figures reflect the business owners whose firms aren’t suited to social media because of the sector or market they’re in.”

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  1. 6 Responses to “Many SMEs Question the Value of Social Media, Survey Finds”

  2. Nice post. Good to hear that SME are at least engaging in Social Media and making conversations about their business. My experience is that most people, OEMs and SMEs alike, see Social Media as being particularly useful to B2C companies and many question its validity to B2B. I have my own view. Would be good to hear you comments.

    By Tom LEESON on Oct 14, 2010

  3. Thanks for the comment, Tom. I think you make a very good point in differentiating the use of Social Media between the B2C and B2B companies. It does seem to me that Social Media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are perhaps better suited to B2C companies. Of course, Twitter and Facebook sites still have a role in the B2B sphere. As an aside, it is impressive that social media single-handedly killed the Gap clothing store’s new logo: http://www.newser.com/story/102795/twitter-credited-with-killing-gap-logo.html

    By Brian Buntz on Oct 15, 2010

  4. Yes, Brian the upside is that I think Gap were quick to react which I thought was important. @cleverjet regards, Tom

    By Tom LEESON on Oct 19, 2010

  5. Tom: I agree that it did seem like Gap made the right decision by listening to feedback from social media. Maybe next time they consider implementing a similar business strategy, they will turn to social media for input.

    By brian on Oct 19, 2010

  6. Brian, I guess you are right with your statement on the fact that SME do not understand the fuss. Similar to PLM you see that building and understanding a vision is hard in these type of companies as often their primary focus is on their core business, not having the resources to step outside and look 5 – 10 years forward. They are flexible and reactive – that is their strength but usually not front runners when it comes to new concepts

    By Jos Voskuil on Oct 19, 2010

  7. Good points, Jos. It will be interesting to see how their relationship to social media changes in the next 5 – 10 years. I’d be curious to know what you recommend SMEs should do to formulate a vision that addresses present needs while looking forward.

    By brian on Oct 19, 2010

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