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Are SMBs Slowing Down on Social Media Usage?

I realize that the terms “social media” and “slowing down” are never to be used in the same post (let alone a headline!) according to the Secret Brotherhood of the Social Media Industry Public Relations and Hype Machine (the SBSMIPRHM for short 😉 ) but I did it. Why? Well, this week I came across a report that was put together by Network Solutions and some folks from the University of Maryland and I was a little surprised by one chart in particular.

Social Networks Hype Cycle

Image by fredcavazza via Flickr

That chart, seen below, seemed to show that social media usage in almost all forms had leveled off or even dropped depending on the type of social media in question.
SMB Social Media Source and Usage.jpg
Of the most interest to me was the drop in usage of blogs by the SMB crowd. While I understand why this might be happening, it is somewhat discouraging to see it happening for real.
I understand because maintaining a blog that is worth the time is a drain. It’s a drain on time and just about every other resource at the SMB’s disposal. The trouble is, most things that have a higher cost also have a higher value. Blogging is definitely one of those.
Yes, it’s hard to find time to write. Yes, it can be hard to determine what to write about. Yes, the act of writing itself makes getting a root canal seem like a Caribbean vacation to many. All that aside, I still don’t think there is a more valuable way to express expertise and to support just about every action in your business than through a well thought out and executed blog.
As for the rest of the social media options out there? It looks like people are staying with (although not necessarily increasing usage of) outlets like Facebook. Why is that? I suspect because many people find it easier to post a quick Facebook update than they do to craft a blog post. I get that but I don’t really agree with it.
Here is my quick list of recommendations to the SMB’s that want to win at the Internet marketing and social media game.

  1. Offer a strong blog for your business (if applicable) at any cost. It tells the story that supports sales efforts, backs up referrals, gives existing customers another touch point with you and so much more.
  2. Use social media for its real strengths, which are customer satisfaction, industry reputation, brand and personal reputation building for the general public. Social media is not necessarily the lead generation panacea that many tout it to be. If you take the pressure off that aspect, then you will still get leads and they may even be very well qualified.
  3. Commit the time and resources to research what you need rather than chasing after every suggestion you find when searching Google for “SMB social media” (unless of course you find results that are attached to my activities 😉 )
  4. Work with the reality of social media for the SMB and not the fantasy of the image of social media as the beginning and end all for the woes of the SMB market.
  5. Stick with it and work it. Have you ever heard the phrase “Plan the work and work the plan”? No better advice for social media and the SMB. It’s not easy but it has real benefits when applied correctly.

So while the numbers may indicate that the love affair between SMBs and social media may be cooling off a little, maybe it’s just the lust of the initial attraction that is gone. Now it’s time to see how the relationship will work for the long term and see just what it can mean to a business to be friends with social media and not fall in lust with it.

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