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A new survey of small business (SMB) members of the local directory and lead-gen site Merchant Circle (owned by Reply.com) finds that a majority are using social media to promote themselves. Yet only small minorities are doing anything else; and most survey respondents resist paying for advertising or other marketing services.

The online survey ran during the final two weeks of September and had just over 3,400 responses. There were a range of industries represented among the respondents.

Much of the focus and PR push is around SMB confidence, hiring outlook and the question of whether respondents support Romney or Obama. However, those issues are less interesting than what respondents said about their online marketing efforts.

Most of these SMBs spent at least three hours per week marketing their businesses. The single largest group reported spending at least five hours per week marketing. 

These SMB respondents were enthusiastic adopters of social media sites especially Facebook (Merchant Circle is a kind of social directory site). This is consistent with other SMB survey data in the market.

While nearly 70 percent said they were on Facebook, the Google+ number is interesting and surprisingly high (49.2 percent). This may be the result of the shift from Google Places to Google+ Local.

Even as a majority of SMBs were using Facebook and other social media tools, only a tiny fragment were paying for any social media advertising or marketing services (6.6 percent). However 20.2 percent of those not currently paying for social media promotion or advertising indicated they were “very likely” to do so in the next six months.

There were a number of questions that explored SMB usage of “review sites” (e.g., Yelp) and daily deals. Those findings were not especially interesting. The short version is that Yelp was the most popular of the review sites and the overwhelming majority of respondents had not run daily deals and weren’t interested in doing so.

Approximately 30 percent of the survey respondents said they had a mobile site or app. This is higher than the general SMB market; it’s also apparently contradicted by a later response (see graphic below) indicating only 17.2 percent had a mobile website or app.

Only 8.3 percent of the SMB respondents said they currently paid for mobile marketing or advertising. And roughly 85 percent said they were unlikely or indifferent to “exploring paid mobile advertising services in the next 3 – 6 months.”

In answer to the question, “How likely are you to explore building a mobile website or mobile app for your business in the next 3 – 6 months?” only 16.3 percent said they were “very likely” to do so. In contrast, 40.8 percent said they were “very unlikely” to take such action. Another 25.6 percent said they were “indifferent” to mobile.

Those responses are surprising given the rise of consumer usage of mobile devices especially for local search. They suggest these businesses are either unaware or overwhelmed and simply can’t address mobile as a channel.

The questions and data don’t seem to have explored paid search marketing or SEO interest and activities. A more extensive and complete Q4 2011 Merchant Circle survey found that SEO was the most important marketing channel among a range of choices that included paid search, mobile, social and traditional media.

This is just one survey and its questions failed to explore some important areas. Nonetheless, the results offer a picture of an SMB population that is enthusiastic about using Facebook and other free social media tools but either indifferent, unable or unlikely to use most everything else.

Taken from: http://marketingland.com