It seems like there is a new survey on social media use by small businesses almost every day. It also seems there has never been a topic with such differing survey results.
Some surveys say 50% or more of all small businesses are using social media. Some say less than 10%.
The reason is different survey methods are being used and different small business groups are being surveyed.
Marketing Charts, for example, reports on an online survey by Internet2Go that shows high small business social media use. The survey authors are very clear about who they surveyed. From Marketing Charts:
"The survey, which targeted the most frequent content publishers among MerchantCircle’s small businesses members, found that 45% of this leading-edge group have a presence or profiles on Facebook and Twitter and use social media to promote their businesses online."
So this survey provides useful information on leading-edge users and is an interesting look at where the overall small business segment may be heading. This is great stuff, but not meant to reflect where the broader small business segment is today.
A recent Citibank survey showed much lower social media use. They surveyed a broad cross section of small businesses. It is a good snapshot of where the overall small business segment is today, but provides little information on where social media use is going.
Another example is the BIA/Kelsey survey released this week. I don't know how this survey was done, but their results - 9% of small business respondents currently use Twitter to promote their businesses - likely indicates a survey of a leading-edge group. But before I would use this information, I would need to better understand how the survey was done.
All of these surveys are good, useful and add to our understanding of social media use by small businesses. But if you just read the survey press releases or short articles on these surveys, it is easy to be confused and think they all apply to the entire small businesses segment. Unlike the Marketing Charts example, important details about how and who was surveyed are often left out of press releases and articles.
So as you read survey results, take an extra minute to check out how the survey was done and who they surveyed. This will cut down on confusion and provide a better sense of how to use the data.