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How useful is social media?

From Oct 14,2010

New research has found that although a significant number of small and medium-sized enterprises are using social-media sites, over half of those that do remain unconvinced of their usefulness.

While 52 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) say they use social sites, according to a survey of 5,800 businesses published on Tuesday, over half of those companies felt that such sites are of little or no use.

Some 21 percent of the SMEs surveyed described social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as “not useful”, with 6 percent saying they were “useless”, the research by the Forum of Private Business found.

While social media is not suited to every small business, SMEs in the consumer sector may not be finding social media useful because they are taking the wrong approach to social sites – simply choosing to push out marketing messages rather than engage in a dialogue with their users.

“[SMEs] are probably making the mistake of broadcasting rather than interacting and conversing,” a spokesman for the not-for-profit told

The time-consuming nature of building up personal networks, rather than just communicating marketing messages, may also put some SMEs off, he added.

And, with a number of big name brands such as Nestle and BP having fallen foul of negative publicity after campaigns by users on social media sites, some SMEs may be deciding social media is just not worth the risk.

“There is a degree of scepticism among SMEs towards social media and [social media backlashes such as BP’s] may be adding to these concerns,” the spokesman said.

However, the Forum believes that social networking can be an important tool for small and medium enterprises.

“SMEs are particularly well-placed to take advantage of social media as it works best when a single person or handful of people can be in charge of it, and devote time to conversing with people in real time,” the spokesman said.