Mid-sized firms more likely to consider social media ‘waste of time’

Canada’s mid-sized organizations are more likely than larger businesses to think that social media has no impact on their business and is a “waste of time”, a new survey shows.

Analytics software vendor SAS Canada and Leger Marketing polled more than 1,000 Canadian executives at public and private, large and mid-sized firms in March. Released Aug. 16, the survey shows that 90 per cent of Canadian organizations use social media to some degree. But there’s a gap between large and mid-sized organizations for social media adoption and recognition.

Mid-sized businesses are less likely to monitor social media channels for brand mentions, for example. Only 22 per cent of mid-sized firms do this often compared to about 38 per cent of large companies. Also, 17 per cent of mid-sized firms never monitor social media, compared to just eight per cent of larger firms.

“The larger the organization and the more public interest there is in the brand, the more interest there is in seeing what’s being said about the company on public forums,” says Lori Bieda, a social media marketing executive with SAS Canada. “It doesn’t mean mid-sized businesses don’t stand to benefit – larger companies are using it to gain an edge.”

Despite some assumptions of larger enterprises being bureaucratic and stuck to more traditional methods of communications, Canadian enterprises seem to be taking the lead on the social media frontier. Popular channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are not being scorned by big business, but embraced.

“Those who ignore social media do it at their own peril,” Bieda says. “They need to be protective of their brands, and be advocates for their brands.”

Still, mid-sized businesses are almost twice as likely to consider social media a “waste of time,” according to the survey. Almost 14 per cent of mid-sized organizations described it this way compared to about 7 per cent of their larger counterparts.

But Erin Bury thinks that if small businesses were included in the survey, they’d poll as the most enthusiastic adopters of social media. Bury is community manager at four-person start-up Sprouter, a Toronto-based social network geared towards budding entrepreneurs.

“It speaks to the agility of small business,” she says. “If a small business tries out Twitter and it doesn’t work, it’s not going to end up on the front page.”

Sprouter’s community of entrepreneurs has been growing steadily since it took root. The site has grown beyond being a “Twitter for business” and added new features. It launched a questions and answers section yesterday, featuring advice from business experts in areas like product management and fundraising.

“It’s a way for expert entrepreneurs to pay it forward and for new entrepreneurs to benefit from that experience,” Bury says.

Sprouter will soon launch another section of its site that pairs investors with entrepreneurs looking to raise money, she adds. That will launch in the Fall.

More mid-sized firms could use someone like Bury, according to the SAS survey. CEOs of mid-sized shops are most likely to direct social media efforts (34 per cent). Larger companies are most likely to have a director of communications direct those efforts (28 per cent).

Social media impacts across many different departments of an organization, Bieda says. That includes activities such as management of brand perception, customer service, public relations, competitive research, and talent acquisition. So it’s not surprising to see many CEOs picking up the reins.

Mid-sized businesses not using social media yet should reconsider their position, she says. “Be where your customers are, and customers are moving in droves to social media.”

There are 600 million people around the globe taking part in these online communities, she says. In Canada, about 15 million people are on Facebook alone.

Sprouter is one business that is definitely not ignoring social media, Bury says.

“We don’t have a traditional marketing and advertising budget,” she says. “We use social media – we use Twitter, our Facebook page, and our weekly newsletter. We don’t have a ton of resources to advertise on billboards.”

The SAS and Leger Marketing survey is accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Brian Jackson is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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