Why Social Media Isnt Working For Small Businesses And What You Can Do About It

A recent article on USAToday.com stated that social media isn’t really working well for small businesses in terms of bottom-line. This is quite an expected announcement as I worked with many small-businesses and I understand why a small business can’t really get social media to work when it comes to generating more dollars.

The article states that 60% of small businesses surveyed don’t see any return on investment on their social media activities. However, 50% have said that they increased their time spent on social media!

What the previous stat clearly shows is that small businesses realize the power of social media and they know that it works, but most of them fail to link their social networks to real business goals.

Why Most Great Social Media Case Studies Are From Big Brands?

There are of course hundreds of case studies where social media has been the medium of choice to get new business for small businesses. However, all the big case studies are from big brands like Zappos, Dell, StarBucks, Red Bull…etc. That comes down to many factors which we’re going to talk about in a minute.

The USAToday.com article discusses many cases where social media didn’t work for some small business owners, so let’s dig into each particular case in detail to figure out why their efforts spent on social media haven’t translated into business transactions!


The tips bellow is only for educational purposes. I don’t know how these business owners approached social media marketing exactly as I didn’t work with any of them. It is not intended to be a criticism of their strategies or anything; I’m just making a guess depending on what they said so I can give you effective tips that you can implement in your business right away.

Case 1:

Terry Benton (owner of Terry’s Fabric Cottage in Sulphur, La) said that she created accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for her business. She spent about 5 hours per week updating the platforms. However, no one ever came.

Why social media didn’t work in this case?

According to what the article said, there are 2 main reasons

I find that LinkedIn is an odd choice for this type of business. Just creating social profiles without doing any market research will be a huge waste of resources (time, effort and money). You need to figure out where your prospects are hanging online and whether they like receiving updates related to your industry via the platforms they’re using. In this case, Pinterest might be a way better candidate than LinkedIn!

Updating the platforms is never enough when it comes to social media marketing. To be perfectly honest with you, it is worthless if done alone! Social posting should be a part of a bigger strategy that incorporates useful buyer personas data to ensure engagement and conversion. You shouldn’t just post because you think that the update is interesting. Everything you put out there should be a part of a strategy that works towards achieving your business goals.

What you can do about it?

Before you can go and create an account on each social network you find, you need to your homework first. You need to identify your business goals from social media and create your buyer personas before you get to choose platforms and tools. Social posting should also be a part of your overall strategy. Every tweet or status update you post should serve a specific purpose towards achieving your business goals.


Social media is a game, and you can’t really expect to win a game without having a strategy that is based on real data not some speculations or recommendations from a so-called “Social Media Expert”

To learn more about creating the perfect social media marketing strategy for your business, download my FREE ebook here.

Case 2:

Regina Hartt said that because there are too may disreputably companies in her industry, social media can’t work for her business. She said that no number of likes can make a prospective customer to spend $5,000 to $40,000 on a pool-plastering job. She created a Facebook page for her business, but only 3-4 of the 200-300 customers she worked with came from online channels.

Why social media didn’t work in this case?

According to what the article says, there are several factors that prevented social media from working for her business:

– The first thing is false assumptions. That’s exactly what real estate investors said about social media at its early stage, yet many have managed to close more deals via Facebook alone than via all traditional marketing tactics combined. $5,000 to $40,000 might seem a higher transaction for social media marketing, but in a similar industry, Marcus Sharidan managed to save his swimming pool business when the economy was crashing through inbound marketing. What do you think is more expensive, setting a swimming pool from scratch or plastering an existing one?

– When I took a look at their website, I didn’t find any blog and no content whatsoever. No links to social profiles, just several pictures and a contact us page. Of course, no one will spend that amount of money unless they’re prequalified and already ready to buy when they land on your website. I heard Marcus Sharidan once said (I think it was in a MarketingSherpa event), that visitors on his website would read an average of 30 pieces of content before they decide to buy a swimming pool. That’s how inbound marketing works depending on the saturation of the industry as well as on the amount of the transaction as well. If people don’t find the answers to their questions on your website, they’ll simply go elsewhere to find them. Social media will get their attention, content will make them interested and email will educate them. That’s when the transaction happens! You can learn more about this by reading my post on how social media marketing is an integrated strategy, not the Holy Grail.

– As I stated before, you can’t just go and create a Facebook page and expect to make sales. There is research that needs to be done before even considering making use of social media. Social media marketing is more about researching and gathering information and insights than it is about implementation. Keep that in mind!

Additional thoughts:

There was some great advice in the article. Some of which are:

1- Lack of proper attribution

As Pam Springer, CEO of Manta stated, small businesses get return from social media, but they don’t really know that it was because of their efforts spent on their social profiles. The lack of proper attribution has been a nightmare for many businesses as well as marketers, but now we have the tools and methods that can almost accurately determine the ROI of our social media marketing efforts. Tools like KISSmetrics or HubSpot can create a profile for a social visitor and record all the actions they do on your website from the first time they land on it until they buy your product or service. Social media was undervalued because our traditional tracking methods relied only on the last action that the prospect has made. Now from the minute they land on your website, your “Virtual Stalker” will record any action they do including, how many content pieces they read before they decided to buy, how much time they spent on a particular page vs another, how many times they visited the pricing page…etc. Spooky huh

2- Lack of patience

Pam also discussed the impatience of business owners when it comes to marketing strategies that take time like social media. I’m sure you heard that social media (as well as all modern marketing strategies) is a marathon, not a sprint, so you better be patient and look at the big picture instead of trying to make a quick buck.

3- Media pressure

Stephanie Schwab, CEO of Crackerjack Marketing discussed a very important problem that many small businesses owners face, which is media pressure. Many business owners don’t even bother doing the proper research to figure out whether they should make use of social media or not. From all the buzz and hype that surrounds the industry, they might think of social media as a quick solution for their broken marketing. They decide to join, throw some money, but later realize that it’s not contributing in any shape of form to their businesses’ bottom-line.

My advice to you is that you shouldn’t join social media because everyone is recommending it. Although platforms like Facebook has most internet users on board, you should do your homework (market research) to determine what marketing medium you should prioritize.

4- Lack of understanding of the real value of social media

In addition to the previous advice, I would add that I believe the number one reason why social media doesn’t work for small businesses is that many don’t really understand the real value of this medium!

Many small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs think that they need sales at their early stage.

How on earth are you going to make sales in a competitive market when no one knows about your product or service?

Although social media can be great for direct sales, especially when it comes to those who you’ve already built great relationships with; its real value is in generating awareness and exposure for your small business. That’s what your business needs, not some quick sale that you can’t scale.

These where the reasons why social media doesn’t work for many small businesses. I firmly believe that it’s never about the weapon; it’s always about the person holding it. The same thing applies to social media. All the tools and platforms in the world won’t make a difference in your business. It’s the strategy that you come up with to guide those outlets that will make a real difference in your business.

If you’re running a small business or a start-up, and would like to get the word out about your products/services and get more clients/customers, then I would love to chat with you. Click HERE so we can talk!

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