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Social Media Usage By SMBs Often Ad-Hoc

Many small and midsize businesses are using social media without any formal strategy or budget, according to a study by SMB Group.

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Small and midsize businesses are using social media for a wide range of purposes, but often without any formal strategy or budget, according to a recent study by The SMB Group.

The move to use social channels for business purposes is clear: 44% of small companies (1-99 employees) and 52% of midsize firms (100-1,000 employees) surveyed said they've already made social media a part of their operations. Quite a few more respondents--25% of small businesses and 22% of midsize companies--said that while they're not currently using social sites, they plan to start within the next 12 months. SMB Group partner Laurie McCabe highlights the fairly close adoption rates between the small and midsize segments, which she attributes in large part to social media's accessibility.

"Small businesses usually really lag medium businesses in adoption of technology, and in this case they're not very far behind," McCabe said in an interview. "Getting involved in social media, at least at an ad-hoc level, there are very few barriers. It's a pretty friction-free way to start to do certain things for your business. That's really in evidence here."

That bears out in another of the study's key findings: Many SMBs are using social sites on an ad-hoc basis--that means they have no formally defined plan for their social business activities. McCabe allowed InformationWeek to take a closer look at data collected by the SMB Group for its 2011 Impact of Social Business in Small and Medium Business Study. Its survey, conducted in February, included 750 SMBs across 18 different industries and non-profits.

Small businesses in particular often play social media by ear: If you break down the 44% adoption pie piece, 20% said they do use social sites without any formal plan, while the other 24% reported doing so in a "strategic and structured way." Midmarket companies are more likely to have a defined program in place for social media--one in three midsize businesses takes a structured approach, compared with 19% operating on an ad-hoc basis.

"That doesn't surprise me, because the small businesses are flying around, a lot of people are wearing several hats. It's hard for them to structure anything," McCabe said. "But I think the small business uptake is significant."

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