Small Business Use of Social Media Continues to Grow

Small businesses follow trends of increased social media presence and promotion and use of visual content such as infographics, images and videos.

Small businesses follow trends of increased social media presence and promotion and use of visual content such as infographics, images and videos.

Despite its problems with preserving user privacy, Facebook remains the dominant social media platform for small businesses, but Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are catching up. LinkedIn and Snapchat are in the race, too.

More than 70 percent of small businesses with fewer than 500 employees use social media promotion, according to a recent survey of more than 350 US small business owners conducted by Clutch, an independent research firm based in Washington, DC.

Small business presence on social media platforms has risen in step with increasing user engagement. Clutch says as many as 24 percent of small businesses now posting on social media started as recently as 2017. More than half of small businesses with an online presence post something daily.

Women-owned small businesses tend to rely on social media more than businesses owned by men. Millennial-owned small businesses are more likely to use social media than older business owners.

Fifty-four percent of small businesses post images or infographics on their social media sites, adhering to evidence that visual content draws greater attention than text.

Of the small businesses surveyed by Clutch, 16 percent said they planned to become active on social media, while only 13 percent indicated no interest.

Eighty-six percent of small businesses surveyed indicated they are on Facebook, which isn’t much of a surprise given its overall social media market dominance with 2.13 billion users across multi-generations and the ability to target audiences.

A little more surprising is that Instagram logged in as the second most used social media platform with 48 percent of small businesses. YouTube (46 percent), Twitter (44 percent), LinkedIn (31 percent) and Snapchat (25 percent) also attracted substantial small business usage. Only 12 percent of small business social media users rely only on Facebook.

A social media presence for women-owned small businesses is a virtual no-brainer because women outnumber men as social media users. The same holds true for small businesses owned by Millennials and targeting Millennial consumers, who grew up surrounded by digital media and can’t imagine life without the internet.

Generational preferences indicate Gen X and Baby Boomers are more likely to prefer Facebook and LinkedIn while Millennials gravitate more to Instagram and Snapchat, creating at least a crude form of social media segmentation.

The Clutch survey showed 52 percent of small businesses post something daily on social media, 70 percent post weekly and 94 percent monthly.  Images or infographics (54 percent) are the more popular type of content posted by small businesses, followed by offers or promotions (52 percent), reviews (49 percent), videos (44 percent), blog posts (40 percent) and research data (33 percent).


Avoid Snap Judgments about Snapchat

Snapchat is no joke with more than 100 million user visits and 7 billion video views per day and a user base heavily weighted with Millennials.

Snapchat is no joke with more than 100 million user visits and 7 billion video views per day and a user base heavily weighted with Millennials.

If you want to direct a message to young adults, consider delivering it on either Instagram or Snapchat. Yes, that Snapchat. 

For many people, Snapchat, which launched in 2011 and was originally called Picaboo, is a quirky social media platform where you post something, then it goes poof. Well, that impression is so yesterday. Almost literally.

In the last two years, Snapchat has added new functionality that allows users to tell more complex stories that hang around longer, send direct messages and conduct video chats. Snapchat’s popularity has exploded, with 100 million user visits per day, a user base nearly the size of Twitter’s and 7 billion daily video views. That is close to Facebook’s 8 billion daily video views, but Facebook has an audience 15 times larger than Snapchat.

If you want to reach young people in the 18-24 age group, Snapchat is a good choice. It has more than three times the following in that cohort than Facebook or Twitter and more than twice Instagram.

If you want to reach young people in the 18-24 age group, Snapchat is a good choice. It has more than three times the following in that cohort than Facebook or Twitter and more than twice Instagram.

Snapchat appeals to young adults because it is relatively frictionless. Tap and shoot. Hold the button down for video. Snapchat is more personal than Instagram. You can share with a chosen group, not broadcast to the world. For the impulsive, Snapchat offers nearly guilt-free, real-time sharing, with the knowledge that the post will soon disappear. (After a run-in with the Federal Trade Commission, Snapchat settled and admitted that posts aren’t absolutely deleted and in some cases can be retrieved with the right forensic tools. For intentional users, this is a meh moment.)

Writing for, Suzanne Delzio says Snapchat’s audience is growing and highly engaged – appetizing metrics for advertisers and anyone who needs to reach a young adult audience. For example, Snapchat could be a perfect crisis response vehicle to tell college students about an infectious disease outbreak and the steps to combat it. Snapchat might be the right vehicle for a continuing campaign to reduce the incidence of sexual abuse on dates.

Delzio says Snapchat endured early criticism for its vertical-only video format. However, data indicates mobile device users strongly prefer vertical versus horizontal video formats. Score this as a built-in advantage for Snapchat. The video completion rate, Delzio adds, on vertical formats is nine times higher, which is good news for marketers who often place their calls to action near the end of a video. Think of how this might work with a video about a car or car insurance aimed squarely at young adult consumers.

Instagram has staked out a strong position with Millennials, but Snapchat is catching up. Delzio reports that a study of Millennial smartphone users shows they spend 5.9 hours per month on Snapchat versus 7 hours on Instagram. Millennials spend almost 26 hours per month in Facebook, but it is a different experience. The key takeaway, Delzio writes, is that 76 percent of Millennials are already plugged into Snapchat.

The network that started in a Stanford classroom may be ready to dress up and go out on the town. Delzio says advertising rates have been lowered on Snapchat to sweeten its appeal for a broader group of advertisers.

In the world of social media, yesterday’s news is ancient history. Snapchat may have been a punch line, but it has quickly grown into a significant network for a key demographic group. Reconsider any snap judgments you may have made about Snapchat and consider how you can put it to work. 

Twitter is in Trouble

Twitter isn’t growing its user base, is losing money and has seen its stock price stumble, but the social network is still a direct, powerful, real-time way to share the news.

Twitter isn’t growing its user base, is losing money and has seen its stock price stumble, but the social network is still a direct, powerful, real-time way to share the news.

Is Twitter a digital 140-character dead letter? Maybe not yet, but it faces a major challenge from Instagram, Snapchat and a new digital platform called Peach for the right to be called the news bureau of social media.

Writing for The New Yorker, Joshua Topolsky says Twitter, which once seemed unassailable, now seems confused and vulnerable. Twitter's original appeal as a forum for “raw, streamlined” citizen journalism has turned into a company without a compass.

"Changes to the product made it hard to follow conversations or narratives,” wrote Topolsky, co-founder of Vox Media. "A lack of rigor in verifying reliable sources made information suspect or confusing. More troubling was the growing wave of harassment and abuse that users of the service were dealing with – a quagmire epitomized by the roving flocks of hateful, misogynistic, and well-organized “Gamergate” communities that flooded people’s feeds with hate speech and threats. The company seemed to be wholly unprepared to handle mob violence, with few tools at its disposal to moderate or quell uprisings.”

Perhaps most troubling are reports that Twitter will lift its 140-character limit and allow tweets with as many as 10,000 characters. Topolsky mockingly called that change an attempt to compete for the “short- and long-winded alike.”

There is objective evidence Twitter has hit a digital wall. Its user base is stagnant. It is hemorrhaging money and has watched its stock value tumble by 50 percent. The company has also lost a bevy of top executives, some of whom have gone to work for Twitter competitors.

Worse yet, Topolsky says, Twitter could be on the verge of irrelevance. Millennials employ Instagram and Snapchat for quick, real-time news-sharing. Instagram, WhatsApp and WeChat now have as many individual users as Twitter, and Snapchat is gaining ground fast.

Many young social users also have abandoned Facebook, Topolsky notes, but Facebook has adapted and kept growing. He says Facebook has “come to dominate and define the concept of social conversation” by dealing aggressively with online campaigns of “noise and intrusion.” Requiring people to use their real names, according to Topolsky, "has certainly made Facebook a much safer space in which to engage.”

Topolsky, who counts himself as a committed Twitter user, hasn’t given up hope. "The core ideals that made the product great are not lost, yet, even if they’ve been obscured," he says. "The directness and power at the heart of Twitter – short bursts of information that can make you feel that you’re plugged into a hulking hive mind – are still its greatest asset.”

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has returned to lead Twitter through its difficult patch, much like Steve Jobs was summoned to revive Apple. Meanwhile, Twitter users will keep their fingers crossed for the social media platform that is a perfect for newsjacking, crisis response and story-sharing. For busy people interested in what’s going on, it is an invaluable tool. The question is whether it will remain relevant.

Erasable Internet

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, who believes delete is the new default.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, who believes delete is the new default.

The hacking of Sony Pictures has sparked speculation about an erasable Internet. In a world where everything is public, you may want a communications platform where what you say suddenly disappears.

Sony CEO Amy Pascal undoubtedly wishes for a mulligan so she could put all her snarky comments about Hollywood counterparts on the equivalent of Snapchat, so they would vaporize soon after they were read.

High-profile figures, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have tried to scrub their online past without complete success. Stuff never fully melts away. There is always somebody who took a screenshot of an offending rant and shows no hesitation to spread it anew when the moment is right or, in the case of Gingrich, wrong.

Google’s ever-evolving algorithms have put the kibosh on trying to bury old bad news with happy feet good news. Whitewashing is pretty much kaput.

New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo has made a friendly suggestion that if you can’t control when you post on social media or in email, then maybe you should consider using a device that automatically dumps your remarks. He says in a hackable world, an erasable Internet holds a lot of appeal.

“This might seem like an extreme, perhaps jaded response to the hack at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which has resulted in the disclosure of thousands of private documents ranging from trivial to merely embarrassing to grossly serious,” Manjoo wrote in his blog.

“The disclosures make the case for creating what I’ve called the erasable Internet. Last year, after the stunning rise of Snapchat, an app that sends pictures and messages that disappear after the recipient receives them, I argued that we were witnessing the birth of a new attitude toward data online.”

Where once we thought of online resources as rich archives, Manjoo says people may now look at online communications as in the moment, not for all time. He points to an existing messaging app called Confide that deletes a message as soon as it is read.

Of course, for apps like Confide and Snapchat to work would require all the people you want to communicate with to be on the same apps. As it turns out, most of us are on email and more hack-prone social media platforms. Despite the threats to our privacy from hackers, government spies and disaffected North Koreans, we are comfortable. We are not likely to bolt from our comfort zone any time soon.

An erasable Internet could turn a lot of online engagement on its ear. Companies have invested huge sums to engage and lock down brand advocates. They would be a lot less interested in a stop-and-kiss relationship.

Millennials, who wouldn’t recognize an encyclopedia if a set fell off a table at Starbuck’s on their foot, could be confused when told some of what they wanted to retrieve online was now missing. Only old people would remember the days when you couldn’t find a phone number because someone had ripped out a page of the phonebook.

Manjoo launched an intriguing conversation, which of course has been duly recorded in print, on radio and online. We will be able to mull at length a world with a short memory while clicking on our fav sites that give us a world perspective on almost everything at our fingertips.

Unless you are intentionally or pathologically snarky, the erasable Internet — where delete is the default — is probably a passing fancy right up there with the wish for world peace. Nice, but unlikely.

Oops, gotta go. My Facebook page just dinged.

Inviting Your Consumers Backstage

One sure-fire way to connect with your consumer is to invite them backstage to get a preview, insider view or special insight that builds trust and loyalty.One good way to entice customers to your website or blog is to send them an invitation to meet you backstage.

Pulling back the curtain and sharing insider knowledge or perspective makes people feel special, especially if the tour is authentic, not just a come-on. 

As a kid, I enjoyed when my dad took me on an early morning visit to the railroad station to watch the circus unload. Seeing how animals and huge tents were transported was more fascinating to me than the actual circus.

If the key to marketing today is to establish relationships, then making customers feel like trusted friends is a good start toward making them feel trust toward you. Of course, that requires more than a good backstage tour.

Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff doesn't just rely on the traditional Fashion Week runway to get buzz for her handbags. She employs a full arsenal of social media. She placed a Vine video on Twitter showing snippets of what goes on before a handbag makes its way to the runway. She debuted her new line on Snapchat before it appeared on the catwalk.

Minkoff teamed with Tumblr and Nordstrom on a T-shirt design contest, with the promise, which was kept, that the winning design would be strutted down the runway. The T-shirt also was sold at Nordstrom. She lined up an exclusive interview during the show to share her insights.

During Fashion Week, Minkoff posted pictures on Instagram and tweeted, including a backstage camera angle that literally made viewers feel as if they were backstage.

Not surprisingly, Minkoff has a large, loyal following. She has transformed her consumers into friends, confidantes and partners.

Relationship-based marketing demands more than coupons and sales pitches. Consumers need a point of connection. Allowing them to peek backstage of your operation is a pretty reliable, sure-fire way to create that connection.