Social media is the top online marketing channel for small businesses after company websites. According to the American Express OPEN and Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) “Small Business Search Marketing Survey”, US small businesses recognize word-of-mouth as the top way their customers find them, followed by the internet and search engines.
The reliance on word-of-mouth—likely along with the low cost in dollars of participating—has led small businesses to make social media their No. 2 online marketing effort, after company websites. As of March 2011, 44% of respondents to the survey used social media for marketing, vs. 28% who used SEO and 21% who used paid search. Looking ahead, more small businesses planned to add social media marketing this year than either search tactic.
Other research supports the finding that small businesses have made social a top priority. A February 2011 MerchantCircle survey found over 70% of US local small businesses used Facebook for marketing, while only about two-thirds used Google and one-third used Bing.