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Social media is a powerful tool for small businesses

Date posted:  9/29/15 06:45:00 AM Social media is a powerful tool for small businesses.

Jonathan Dietrich, senior director of CEB's Marketing to Small Business Leadership Council, doesn't understand the lack of social media utilization among some small businesses.

"Amazingly, SMB owners' use of social media as a marketing channel is still an untapped gold mine," Dietrich said in a release. "It generates tremendous amounts of data that marketers should leverage to create new business opportunities and significantly improve sales performance."

CEB, an advisory and global insights company, worked in tandem with Radius, a marketing intelligence platform designed to help marketers better understand their customers, to create a joint study of social media marketing usage. The study found less than 33 percent of marketers targeting small and medium-sized businesses collect social media data for new opportunities, with only four percent using social media data to find future business leads.

The study polled 880 businesses across North America.

Businesses should engage with other companies on social media
While the study revealed four-fifths of companies use social media for some sort of business purpose, most ventures aren't using social media to interact with suppliers. Rather, they are using social media channels to promote their own company.

But this isn't necessarily the best option. The study found businesses who interact with suppliers tend to be better off than companies that are just promoting their business. When small businesses interact with suppliers on social media, it usually brings forth good synergy. Nearly 40 percent of small businesses reported a more positive feeling about a supplier's brand when they have sent and received messages with a supplier.

It's a growing trend. More small-businesses are aware of suppliers on social media, with that number jumping to 50 percent in 2014 compared to 38 percent in 2012, according to the study.

What channels are businesses using?
Facebook was the top social media outlet for businesses. LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram were also used broadly among small business owners, according to the report.

Peter Tait, vice president of marketing for Radius, said social media analytics can provide a great way for businesses to get a leg up on the competition.

"With the right tools, it's extremely easy to use social media data to generate new leads that match the profiles of a company's most successful customers," Tait said. "Sales reps can also use social media data to conduct advance research and improve personalization of their outreach campaigns. It's all there for the taking."