Earlier this year, I blogged about University of Maryland research that measured social media efforts being made by small businesses. In early 2010, about 25% of small businesses said they were using social media.  The most recent survey from Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland points to a stall in the number of small businesses that are turning to social media.

The percentage of small business engaged in social media has not increased and analysts believe it’s because expectations have outpaced accomplishments. For example, the following expectations of small business owners regarding social media were not met  (expectations appear outside of parentheses, accomplishments within):

  • Higher awareness of company in target market 77% (64%)
  • Attract new customers 71% (53%)
  • Improved collaboration with suppliers, partners, colleagues 40% (33%)

However, there are two areas where accomplishments exceed expectations. Small business owners say that using social media has allowed them to stay engaged with current customers and it has improved internal collaboration efforts.

While social media is increasingly being seen as a tool to manage customer loyalty as opposed to being a way to acquire new customers, small business owners still have concerns. Managers say this channel takes up more time than they had expected and as a result, it costs more than they had imagined. In addition, 29% of these executives say they’ve experienced negative comments and worry this feedback will dampen sales.

As small businesses continue to explore the benefits and drawbacks of social media,  these survey results indicate they will proceed cautiously. They will likely continue to use a mix of online and offline channels to acquire new customers.

[Source:  Small Businesses Change Social Media Expectations. Emarketer.com. 29 Sept. 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2010]