Though the use of social media among the nation's smallest businesses surged in 2010—a trend likely to continue in 2011—email and brand websites are still the two most effective marketing tools for small businesses, according to a survey from Constant Contact.

Surveyed small business owners cite the following as the top 5 most effective* digital channels:

  1. Email: 91% use email marketing; among them 78% say such efforts are moderately (46%) or very (32%) effective.
  2. Websites: 95% have websites; among them 75% say their sites are moderately (38%) or very (37%) effective.
  3. Online advertising: 69% use digital ads; among them 60% say those efforts are moderately (39%) or very (21%) effective.
  4. social media: 73% use at least one social channel for business; among them 54% say such efforts are moderately (37%) or very (17%) effective.
  5. Blogs: 43% have a blog; among them 47% say their efforts are moderately (33%) or very (14%) effective.

The most effective traditional tactic is the telephone: 73% of small business owners rely on phones (telemarketing) and, among them, 74% say such efforts are moderately (38%) or very (36%) effective.

Below, additional findings from Constant Contact's 2011 Attitudes and Outlooks Survey, based on a poll of 1,572 small business owners and marketers from B2C (62%) and B2B (38%) organizations.

Nearly three quarters of small business owners (73%) say they conduct social media marketing; among them, 80% have increased slightly or substantially their use of social tools in the previous 12 months.  

Moreover, 81% of those currently using social media expect to increase their efforts in the coming year.

Facebook is the most widely adopted and most effective social channel: 95% of small business owners say they use Facebook for business; among them, 82% say their efforts are moderately (52%) or very (30%) effective.

Twitter and LinkedIn effectiveness are nearly the same among small business owners:

  • 60% use Twitter; among them 33% say Twitter is moderately effective and 14% say it's very effective.
  • 58% use LinkedIn; among them 35% say LinkedIn is moderately effective and 12% say it's very effective.
Just 45% of small business owners use video sharing (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, Blip), but nearly three-quarters say such tools are moderately (46%) or very effective (27%).

Looking for solid, substantiated information about email from the industry's best resources? The 67-page Email Marketing Factbook featuring 39 charts tells you about email usage, what captures users' attention, and how organizations are using email to reach customers. This email factbook consists of chapters 1 & 2 from the larger Digital Marketing Factbook a 144-page compilation of data and 110 charts that also covers search engine marketing and social media.

Other key findings:

  • When connecting one-on-one with prospects, small business owners are most likely to use email (95%), followed by telephone (77%), face-to-face meetings (69%), Facebook (50%), LinkedIn (24%), and Twitter (20%).
  • 83% of small business owners check email first when they go online for business, compared with 6% who check news sites and 5% who check Facebook.
  • Asked which top 3 areas small businesses need the most help with in 2011, marketing (61%) and sales/new business ranked first (61%), followed by business growth planning (40%), technology (24%), accounting/finance (23%), human resources (11%), and legal (10%).

* Respondents were asked: "Which forms of social media marketing have you found to be effective for marketing your organization?" No specific measurements were used to define "effectiveness."

About the data: Findings are from a survey of 1,572 owners and marketers of small businesses (87% have fewer than 25 employees), conducted in March and April, 2011. Roughly 62% of respondents were from B2C organizations; 38% from B2B.   

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