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Small business owners are still lukewarm about social media: 53% say they use social media for business, but only 12% say social marketing is a must for their business, according to a survey from Hiscox.

Social media adoption varies by company size, however: 62% of businesses with 50-249 employees use social media for business, compared with 46% of those with 1-9 employees.

Below, other findings from the survey of 304 US business owners.

Among all surveyed US small business owners (1-249 employees) who use social media for business, Facebook is the most popular platform (19%), followed by LinkedIn (15%), and Twitter (4%).

Only 1% of surveyed small business owners say they publish a blog for business. 

Facebook Most Important for Growth

Facebook is also the top channel for business growth: Small business owners who use social media cite the following channels as most effective in helping them grow their business:

  • Facebook page: 28%
  • LinkedIn company page or group: 18%
  • Company blog: 8%
  • YouTube: 6%

Social Marketing a Low Priority

Even so, social media is a low priority for most small businesses: Asked to describe how their companies use social media, small business owners report the following: 

  • Social media isn't important to our business: 43%
  • We use social media when we have time: 24%
  • We don't know enough about social media: 14%
  • Social media is a must; we use it all the time: 12%

Interestingly, 19% of small businesses with 10-49 employees say social media is a must (and they use it all the time), compared with the just 10% of those with 50-249 employees (the biggest social media adopters in the survey).

Top Goals With Social Marketing

Building awareness and new business are the top reasons small business owners use social media, citing the following top objectives with social marketing: 

  • Brand awareness: 27%
  • Generate sales: 22%
  • Promote new offers, promotions: 11%
  • Customer service: 10%
  • Research: 10%
  • Improve SEO: 5%

Top Overall Marketing Channel: WOM

Asked to identify which marketing channel they couldn't do without, 50% of small business owners cite word-of-mouth recommendations, 14% cite their website (18% of companies with 50-249 employees cite websites), 8% cite working with key partners, 6% cite advertising, and 4% cite social media/blogging, 4% cite viral marketing, and 3% cite search marketing.

Interestingly, 39% of small business owners say WOM recommendations are their only source of business leads.

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Sources of Marketing Advice

Most (60%) small business owners get advice about business from mentors and colleagues, while 43% cite conferences and events, 28% cite magazines and websites, and 14% rely on online forums (e.g., LinkedIn's).

About the data: Findings are from a survey of 304 owners and senior managers of small businesses (1-249 employees) in the US, conducted by Hiscox from May 18 to July 1, 2011.

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