This month, I am working with Staples to help small business owners, and as part of that, I was privy to the results of a recent survey that Staples just conducted. Some of the results were quite surprising, to say the least.
Let me ask you a question: Imagine that a magical genie like Robin Williams in Aladdin came to you and granted you one wish. What would you wish for?
- An ad on the Super bowl?
- 2 million Twitter followers?
- A Mork and Mindy reunion?
Well, if you are like most small business owners in the recent Staples Small Business Survey (41%) your answer would be “A Facebook page with 2 million engaged fans.” And that’s a great choice of course. Not only has Facebook become ubiquitous but it is also the easiest social media platform to master.
Yet, while that answer was not so surprising, many of the other results were in fact very unexpected.
Probably the most surprising statistic was this: Almost 60% of the survey respondents indicated that they do not have a website and don’t think that having one is necessary for their business.
To me, it simply unfathomable that in this day and age an entrepreneur would not only forgo the incredible potential that is a website, but fail even to see its importance.
The fact is, these days, people often check out a business’ website before ever stepping foot in the business. Don’t you? Or they find the business in the first place by doing an online search. If you don’t have a website, people are not finding you and it is costing you money. Period. Not having a website today is business malpractice.
Along these same lines, the survey also found some pretty surprising results with regard to social media. But before I share those, a quick detour:
One of the real challenges of being a small business owner today is that you have to be one part entrepreneur, two parts techno-geek. You have to be. You need to have a handle on computers and software and the Internet. Beyond that, to really succeed, you should also understand the latest marketing techniques and opportunities, be it social media, or mobile marketing (people are looking at their iPhone screens far more than their computer screens these days), or what have you.
Is this challenging? Yes. Is it important? Yes again.
So the next two surprising statistics were these:
- More than half (53%) of small business owners surveyed either have not considered how social media can help their business or consider themselves novices at it
- 35% feel social media offers no benefit whatsoever to the success of their business
Look, I feel your pain. But, as they say, no pain, no gain. As a small business owner, if you are not learning to master some part of the vast social media landscape by now, you are really missing out on an incredible opportunity to…
- Find customers (old and new) where they spend their time. People now spend more time online than they do watching TV, and much of that online time is spent on social media
- Engage with those customers in a way you simply cannot in other places online
- Grow your brand at no cost to you and nothing more than a good use of your time
- Meet potential customers that you would never have a chance to meet offline
Given the above, those customers in the Staples survey that do use social media have found it to be, of course, very beneficial form their business.
Does social media take time? You bet. On average, respondents spent five and a half hours managing their social media channels, and this time commitment was, they said, the biggest challenge. So why did they do it then?
Because more than 75% concluded that their social media efforts had a productive return for their business.
So, what can we take away from all of this? It seems that (as made famous in The E-Myth) too many small business owners are so busy working in their business, they do not have enough time to work on their business. And the irony is that if they did in fact take advantage of the richness that is the Internet and social media, they would grow their businesses so much that they could then use their time to start to get those 2 million Facebook friends.
And they wouldn’t need a magical genie to get there.
Steve Strauss – Senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host at TheSelfEmployed.com.