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Social media has reached a tipping point. For the first time ever, small and midsized business owners say social media is not only the marketing method they use most, but also the one that gets the biggest chunk of their marketing budgets.

Essentially three-fourths (74.5 percent) of small and midsized businesses use social media as a marketing or promotional tool—an increase from 71.7 percent last year, according to the latest BIA/Kelsey Local Commerce Monitor. They also spend an average of 21.4 percent of their total marketing budgets on social media, up from 18.9 percent last year, making it the top type of marketing platform.

In comparison, just 59.3 percent of small and midsized businesses used print and outdoor advertising this year, a decline from last year’s 63 percent. Overall, businesses in the study spent an average of 18.5 percent of their media budgets on print and outdoor advertising.

No surprise, the overall most-used social media platform is Facebook, used by 55.1 percent of small and midsized companies in the survey.

BIA/Kelsey notes several reasons for social media’s popularity and growth:

  • It’s easy to use
  • It’s convenient
  • It’s localized
  • It’s affordable

Although small business owners rely on social media, they’re less than satisfied with its ROI. If you’re among that group, here are three simple steps for tracking the ROI of social media efforts.

1. Set goals for social media results.

You can’t measure something unless you know what you’re measuring. Determine what you want to achieve with social media. Go beyond “likes” or retweets to measure business results, such as

  • X number of people filling out an online contact form
  • X number of people buying something from your website
  • X number of people attending an event at your business

2. Use tools.

There are all sorts of third-party tools out there, but if, like most small business owners you use Facebook or Twitter, you can take advantage of their free analytics tools—Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics—to see what types of social media outreach get the most interaction and what types of actions are driven by social media. Combine these with Google Analytics, and you have powerful tools for assessing what people do after viewing your social media posts, which social networks drive customers to your business website and what they do (browse, buy, contact) while they’re there. 

3. Refine your approach.

Based on what you learn by using analytics, make changes to your social media strategy. For example, you may want to post more or less often, include stronger calls to action or change your focus to a different social network.

I remember when people said social media was a fad. As this survey proves, it’s far more than a fad today—so it’s time to take advantage of it.

Still unsure how to harness the power of social media? Your SCORE mentor can help. If you don’t have a mentor, visit www.score.org to get matched with one and get moving on marketing your business.

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and SmallBizDaily.com.

CEO, GrowBiz Media