SMBs Now Spend More On Social Than Any Other Category

But the most social businesses are not the ones you’d think (spoiler alert: contractors and bookkeepers), BIA/Kelsey finds.

From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to Pinterest, social media seems to command everyone’s attention right now, so it should be of little surprise that these sites are also attracting more ad spending from SMBs than any other media channel, according to BIA/Kelsey.

About 72.2 percent of survey respondents in BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor, an ongoing insights report, say they’re using at least one of the 12 different social media platforms/formats. Overall, SMBs tell the local market researcher that they spend 23.3 percent of their advertising/marketing budget on social media.

The findings in this new study are from a preliminary report taken from responses gathered since last summer, a rep for BIA/Kelsey said, noting that an update will be coming next month.

media used for promotion biakSMBs: They’re Just Like Us

The use of social media by SMBs overall is strongly driven by Facebook — just like it is for most people, BIA/Kelsey’s report states.

“At a utilization level of 53.0 percent among the full sample, more SMBs use Facebook than any other platform or media of any type,” writes Steve Marshall, BIA/Kelsey’s director of research. “The next most-used social media, LinkedIn, reports a 31.1 percent utilization among the full sample, more than 20 percentage points lower.”

These “social media oriented” SMBs use about three different social media/platforms on average. “We believe this signifies the category of social media is evolving into a complex ecosystem of its own,” Marshall says.

Aside from Facebook, LinkedIn — which SMBs have taken to use as their outside human resources department — and Pinterest have the greatest appeal.

In the case of Pinterest, BIA/Kelsey suggests that the viral nature of sharing items on that platform is what local businesses to it. In addition, the visual marketing positions of many SMBs, particularly those involved with clothing, home improvement, and travel services, make that Pinterest a crucial social media outlet.

Think Again

Among the surprises in BIA/Kelsey’s overview of SMBs’ social media usage is the kinds of businesses that appear to be most active. The higher than average social media activity can be found in such SMB categories as construction/contracting and bookkeeping.

On top of that, let’s set aside the notion that social media is a Millennial’s game, as the highest rate of social media usage is actually among the oldest age group of SMBs — those in business for 11 years or more.

A Social Call

The reasons for all that are simple: Social media is the most ubiquitous and simple way to attract new customers and retain a connection with existing ones.

So it’s no mystery why the 49.6 percent of SMBs that use social media are primarily focused on reaching the consumer market. The other half are mixed between B2B businesses and those that serve consumers and businesses equally. In total, 43.7 percent of SMBs that use social media told BIA/Kelsey that the primary purpose is for customer acquisition.

Still, for many SMBs, social media is an added a point of connection to their customers, not an end point. For example, 61.9 percent of SMBs rate phone calls as the highest quality lead source.

It’s worth pointing out that as social media becomes more about direct one-to-one connections, and not just about sharing information and images with friends and followers, the importance of phone calls could change. Or, even more likely, the lines between social media and other forms of communication will merge. Consider Facebook’s recent introduction of a call-now function within its Local Awareness Ads.

Although SMBs use multiple social media platforms/formats heavily, the amount of time spent on social media (in hours) is still modest, BIA/Kelsey finds.

“By far the largest bracket of time spent by SMBs on social media was one to four hours per week among 38.4 percent of SMBs,” Marshall writes. “We believe this time allocation will increase significantly as social media continues to evolve and SMBs come to appreciate the need for steady effort.”

It all fits into the established marketing priorities SMBs have adopted over the past decade. For major social media oriented SMBs, the top three priorities are SEM/SEO, social media, and email marketing.

For the most part, nearly 70 percent of SMBs that use social media do so to monitor online customer comments.

“What is perhaps unexpected is that of these, 70.3 percent use a free or DIY method of monitoring, as opposed to a more robust, paid method — which may suggest a sales opportunity,” Marshall suggests.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.