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Facebook, SMBs & Self-Service: Just a Matter of Time or Wishful Thinking?

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Last week LSA research partner Thrive Analytics released findings from its latest Local Pulse Survey of small businesses (SMBs). The survey sample was 1,116 US based businesses and covered a great many topics from sales tactics to social media.

I want to focus on a just a few of the social media data points.

Consistent with other data, the survey found that 80% of respondents were using social media in one form or another to promote their companies. Facebook was the most popular social media platform used by 70% of these SMBs. Twitter was next (32%) then LinkedIn (26%). That was followed in order by Pinterest, YouTube and others.

These SMBs rated social media as one of their top two most effective marketing channels. The other was company website (this is a last-click attribution issue). Yet the vast majority of these businesses weren’t using any tools to measure ROI; only 26% said they were.

The rest went “old school” by doing things like asking customers how they learned about the business or monitoring calls and foot traffic in informal ways. These firms cited social media as one of the top two areas they need the most help with (the other was SEO).

Saying that social media is the most effective marketing channel and equally one of the top two they need the most help with isn’t necessarily a contradiction. But it’s a curious juxtaposition.

The survey also found that only 19% of respondents had paid for social media advertising in some form. The “real-world” numbers are considerably lower: consider 45+ million active SMBs and 2.5 million advertisers per Facebook’s official figures (9/15). That’s only about 5% or 6% penetration roughly speaking (not all Facebook’s advertisers are SMBs).

Whether you take the Thrive survey number or do the math on the Facebook figures, the vast majority of SMBs on Facebook have not done anything with Facebook Ads. This is the gap that Facebook is trying to close with self service.

Facebook clearly has awareness (though maybe not of ad types). It’s a question of getting these millions of SMBs to advertise and then continue buying ads. Facebook’s Local Insights tool is a simple way to try and provide (offline) value to SMBs and local advertisers. However my view is that Facebook is probably not going to get significant penetration of its installed base without some form of reseller program.

Find out at LSA 16

Facebook is cultivating partners and resellers but it doesn’t have anything as elaborate and mature as Google’s program. To what degree must the company accelerate its reseller effort to capitalize on SMB demand? What do you think? Can the company truly capture a meaningful percentage of its SMB audience without third party enablers?

At LSA 16 on March 7 we’ll be talking with Facebook’s Joe Devoy about the company’s various ad types and tools for local and its thinking about the broader ecosystem. That will be followed by a presentation from Constant Contact’s Doug Thompson about the company’s API integration that creates Facebook Ads out of emails. Is this sort of technology integration a model for others in the local segment?

Come to LSA 16 and find out.

2 Responses to “Facebook, SMBs & Self-Service: Just a Matter of Time or Wishful Thinking?”

  1. Neal says:

    The beauty of FB advertising is that it is like traditional media — it delivers audience and this is a construct that all traditional media companies are comfortable and familiar with and therefore is a viable option for reselling. Had FB advertising come along before search advertising, perhaps the path to digital media would have been considerably different – faster, less churn, less mystery to the SMB.

  2. Greg Sterling says:

    However you could say that Google has paved the way for FB and done a lot of the heavy lifting and learning that FB is now benefiting from — especially given that so many FB execs were from Google.

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