Small Businesses Rate Social, SEO, Email as Most Effective Marketing Tools

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communication and promotion strategy with social media

Small businesses continue to be in love with social media.

Regular readers will remember that I’ve written how local businesses have embraced social media as a marketing vehicle, often seemingly on faith. I’ve cited survey data from our Local Merchant Report showing widespread adoption — even among very small businesses — but a relatively high (38 percent) rate of complaints on lacking returns. That could be attributed to a mismatch of objective and medium, missing measurement, or a failure to integrate social with other marketing initiatives. It’s probably some combination of those.

Well, perhaps many of them are solving those problems. A survey we put out last month to about 100 small business owners suggests as much. We asked them to tell us what were their most effective marketing tools and tactics among a list of a dozen. Two-thirds of respondents selected social media as one of their top three.


Some other takeaways from this quick survey:

  • The perception that digital marketing is more effective than traditional print or broadcast remains pronounced. We’ve been observing that trend for a while, but we also see that local businesses still use traditional media. Suppliers of marketing tech, services, or ad inventory should emphasize their ability to coordinate and measure multichannel campaigns.
  • SEO and email marketing are the other highest-regarded techniques, another trend that’s held true for several years now. Email and social media are a powerful combination. I’d keep an eye on SEO — as customers increasingly use smartphones as their go-to shopping tool, SEO techniques developed around the desktop will need an overhaul.
  • Review sites pop up high on the list. In our local merchants survey, over one-third (37 percent) of respondents thought reviews had a positive effect on their business, but most SMBs used pretty unsophisticated means of encouraging customers to review them. About one-third asked them directly while 40 percent did nothing at all. That’s another opportunity for an email/social media combo.
  • Mobile advertising makes an appearance, but barely. We’re seeing a pretty big expectations gap between mobile marketing and tech suppliers and their small business customers. Vendors appear far ahead of their potential customers. Be careful out there.

These results come from a new partnership for Street Fight. We teamed up with Alignable, a social network for small business owners, to gain insight into the hyperlocal tech, media, and commerce issues they’re facing. Alignable provides a platform for local stores and services to communicate and share advice, war stories, and other information with each other. We’ll be tapping into the Alignable audience regularly, and company founder Eric Groves will be presenting today at our New York Street Fight Summit 2015.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.