What’s Working with Social Media Marketing

Key findings from a recent WSJ/Vistage survey of business owners found:

  • LinkedIn topped the survey with 41% of respondents singling it out as a potentially beneficial to their company.

  • 16% picked YouTube and 14% choose Facebook.

  • 3% of 835 business owners said Twitter had the most potential to help their companies.

The findings illustrate the challenges facing Twitter in demonstrating to small-business owners the benefits of using the short-messaging service to reach customers. Twitter says it is just beginning to court small businesses, which make up the bulk of U.S. companies, and are an important revenue source for many tech giants, including Google. Facebook says those kind of results are more consistent with other recent independent small-business surveys that show Facebook is the most often used and most effective social-media channel.

Owners of small firms generally have limited money and time to figure out the most useful ways to tap into social media. In the survey, just four in 10 business owners said they have employees dedicated to social-media campaigns. Nearly half of them spend between one and five hours weekly on social media and one-third spend no time at all.

Richard Alfonsi, Twitter’s vice president of global online sales, says Twitter needs to do more to educate small businesses on the benefits of using its service to reach potential customers and on the most effective ways to use the service. “We’re just at the start of both of these efforts,” he says, adding that there are already about 4.5 million smaller businesses using Twitter, even without much small-business outreach by the company.

Twitter said nearly a year ago that it would begin to let small businesses buy ads on the service, to circulate their Twitter messages more prominently. Previously, twitter allowed only large companies to buy ads on the service. But it acknowledges that it has moved slowly with the small-business ad service to make sure it’s just right. The ad service remains in a test mode with a selected group of clients.

Businessman Freed Maxick who participated in Twitter’s test said that the ads it bought on Twitter last fall targeting people looking for U.S. presidential candidates’ views on taxes generated 2.1 million clicks on its website.

Twitter generated about $545 million in ad revenue this year, up from $288 million last year. Facebook posted $4.28 billion in ad revenue for 2012. LinkedIn’s revenue for the first nine months of last year was $668.7 million, about a quarter from advertising, paid job postings and other marketing.

John Weiss, a businessman said “on Twitter, people have short attention spans, they want quick news bits and move on.”  Anthony Saladino, another business owner says one drawback to Twitter is that it can’t support images as effectively as other outlets like Pinterest and Facebook, which makes it a hard sell for firms that rely on visuals to attract customers.

Read more details in The Wall Street Journal

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