As technology trends emerge, entrepreneurs play catch-up to get a grip on social media.
A new survey conducted by Staples Inc. shows that business people do see the value in social media, but they lack expertise in applying the latest digital marketing tools to their businesses.
The Staples survey looked at how small businesses are integrating social media into their operations.
Poll results include:
-- 53 percent of small-business owners and leaders are either novices or don't consider how social media can help their business
-- 40 percent of owners feel that using their social media channels has helped their business
-- 61 percent of small businesses use at least one social media channel
The most frequently mentioned goal for social media usage is engaging customers (50 percent), edging out increasing sales (46 percent) and creating brand awareness (44 percent). Facebook and LinkedIn, followed by Twitter, are the leading social media channels used by small business owners.
Related story: Social Media Means New Business Opportunities
Manta, an online small-business community, confirms that social media is a priority investment among entrepreneurs who plan to invest more in social media, online advertising and marketing over hiring new staff.
Of the same entrepreneurs surveyed by Manta, the social media advocates admitted certain challenges that come with efforts to increase their digital presence.
"With the potential to generate a compelling return on investment (ROI), social media involvement is trending upward in the small-business community," according to the Manta survey. "Nearly 50 percent of SMBs (small businesses) have increased time spent on social media compared to a year ago. More than one in three small-business owners dedicate between one and three hours each week managing their social media channels, while 10 percent spend more than 10 hours."
In addition, 18 percent of small business owners say that Facebook is the most difficult platform to maintain, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter. Moreover, according to Manta, 36 percent of entrepreneurs said the primary goal of using social media "is to acquire and engage with new customers."
To help small businesses get that grip on powerful digital tools, Staples will award three small businesses $50,000 each in digital marketing as part of the Staples Push It Forward Contest. Log onto Staples' Facebook page now through May 31 for a chance to win.
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