Small business social media use ‘more natural’

A new report reveals small businesses spend more of their marketing budgets on digital strategies than their larger counterparts, and are more inclined to embrace social media because their participation is perceived to be more natural.


The report, titled B2B Marketing Outlook Australia 2011, was compiled by B2B marketing consulting agency Green Hat in conjunction with the Australian Marketing Institute, the Australian Direct Marketing Association and B2B Marketing.


Based on a survey of 200 marketers, the report reveals small companies will allocate 29% of their budget to digital marketing this year, compared to 13% of large companies.


“An interesting finding of this research is that a higher proportion of companies with larger marketing budgets – over $500,000 – don’t use any social media,” the report says.


“Drilling further, 75% of companies with marketing budgets under $500,000 used at least one form of social media, while almost a third of those with budgets over $500,000 did not use any social media at all.”


According to Green Hat director Andrew Kent, large organisations typically take longer to get things going with regard to social media while smaller businesses can often introduce new initiatives a lot faster.


“Social media also has a lot to do with personality and personal representation. For a smaller business, the senior managers or founders are often a fairly important part of the brand, so social media is a more natural fit for them,” Kent says.


Kent says social media also allows small business owners to network regardless of where they are or what time it is.


“If you look at B2B marketing, and you take what happened in small businesses with B2B marketing, they do quite a lot of networking,” he says


“The same strategy applies to the digital world. How does a small businessman find the time to network? It’s a constant juggling act.”


“The benefit [of social media] is that a small businessman can go online at 1am at night and participate [in online discussions].”


Kent says the survey highlights the extent to which business will embrace digital strategies in the future, claiming 90% of the companies surveyed have a website and plan to do more with regard to boosting their online presence.


“In terms of B2B businesses, most have websites. But with B2C, you need to consider what sort of business you are and how people find you [when allocating your marketing budget],” he says.


“If you’re a coffee shop, you’re not going to have too many customers going online to find you and research the business.”


Kent says he expects big businesses to embrace social media in the future because it is “probably more effective than silence”.


A recent example of this is the major banks, all of which now employ people to maintain their Facebook and Twitter accounts as they seek to boost their credibility on social media sites.


The Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and ANZ all have dedicated teams to promote new products and respond to messages from customers on their public social networking profiles in a hands-on approach to monitoring their brands online.


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