Small Business, Social Media Not Mixing

Few U.S. small businesses have adopted social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter for business uses, according to research released Thursday.

Three-quarters of small businesses say they have not found sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn helpful for generating business leads or expanding business in the past year, according to a survey conducted for Citibank (C) Small Business of 500 U.S. businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Also, 86% said they have not used social networking sites for information or business advice. Ten percent said they have sought business advice and information on expert blogs.The low number of small businesses using such sites for business purposes was unexpected, particularly as social media use has grown overall, said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi's Small Business segment. Citibank is part of Citigroup Inc.

"We were very surprised we did not see more use of some of the social media outlets, even if just for advice," she said.

"What this survey indicates to us is small businesses are very, very focused on running their business and on generating sales and managing their cash flow and doing the things that are really important, especially in these economic times," Veltre said. "I don't think quite yet the social media piece of it has proven to be as significant."

The survey found 42% of small businesses have made greater use of their company Web sites to generate business leads and sales.

Nineteen percent were doing more advertising to attract new customers in the economic downturn, 38% said they were doing less and 41% were doing the same, it found.

Also, 28% were using more email marketing and 25% using more online advertising to generate business leads and sales, it found.

The telephone poll was conducted for Citibank Small Business by GFK Roper from August 20-27 of a sample of 500 small business executives across the United States. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.