Home Lacking Citibank Survey Misses The Mark About Small Business Use of Social Media

Lacking Citibank Survey Misses The Mark About Small Business Use of Social Media

We promise to refrain from any cynicism about the survey results we receive. That said the surveys are sometimes misleading, looking for a public relations hit. Hope that isn’t too cynical but the results of a Citibank commissioned survey about small business use of social media makes us wonder.

Citibank and GfK Roper conducted the survey. GfK Roper interviewed 500 small business people over the phone. The businesses had fewer than 100 employees. They were drawn from a database and segmented by SIC code. Segments included manufacturing/construction, transportation and communication, wholesale/retail, financial services and professional services.

Here’s what’s frustrating. No doubt the results are accurate. It would be far more astonishing if the totals were much higher than what the survey reported. The problem is the survey results come from a much larger study commissioned by Citibank about small business and the recession.

What Citibank repors about social media is just a small set of data that was part of a much larger questionnaire concerning small business and the recession. As a result, the survey has little depth about how small businesses are actually using social media.

Here’s an example of what the survey reported. For instance, they say that social networks are not lead generators for small businesses.

Again, it is no big surprise that social media represents a smaller part of the pie. Here’s what we do find interesting. The fact that small businesses are beginning to see the value of using social media for generating leads. A full 12% of the people said they use these social networks for that purpose. Using these social networks for generating leads is pretty experimental at this point. The fact that 12% are doing it at all is impressive.

What this survey lacks is substance. We know that few small businesses are participating in social media. We are still in the growing phase. How does this data compare year- to-year? This survey does not have that information.

What would be more interesting is a detailed look at how small business people conduct themselves online with questions that go in-depth into work habits and knowledge about social media.

The reality is we see a lot of innovation in how small businesses use social media. We see it growing by leaps and bounds. Compare it year-to-year and we would expect the picture would be a bit different.

The examples of how small businesses use social media are all around us. The food carts are awesome in my hometown of Portland, Or. @koifusionpdx is a Korean taco truck that tweets where it is going. They always have lines when they tweet where they are or where they plan to be. Another Korean taco truck in LA has had similar success. I could come up with dozens of other examples.

We show that just so it is on the record that there is a lot of life out there in how small businesses use social media.There are so many questions that can be asked in a survey to get a far more detailed view about the market.

I asked for an interview with Citibank about the survey results. No one was available today but I did get this email reply from a PR person:

As the survey stats show 3/4 of small business owners are not using social media to grow their business, but the survey also shows that 24% are using it, so you are right – it is a fact that companies are starting to use it, which is great as it’s a great way to grow a business.

He goes on to say that the results were picked out of a far larger survey about small business and the recession.

So, the survey about social media was really not even intended to be in-depth at all. Instead, they segmented the data about social media out of the larger survey and crafted a press release with a tabloid headline: “Citibank Survey Reveals Small Businesses Not Joining Social Media Conversation”

It does not get much better. The press release quotes a senior executive who states:

Our survey suggests that small business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, Executive Vice President of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Her statement reflects little understanding of social media. Yes, small businesses are still feeling their way with social media. This can also be said for some of the largest businesses in the world. Further, Veltre states that businesses may not have the manpower or the time. That does not appear to be a quantified statement, again reflecting the survey’s lack of depth. In addition, the quote from Veltre makes her look like she knows little about how social media is even applied.

We checked into the Citibank web site to see how they are using social media. The site does not even have an RSS feed as far as we can tell.

They have no links to Twitter or Facebook. They do have a sparsely detailed Facebook fan page with 525 members. Doesn’t that seem like a tiny number of people considering they are the third largest retail bank in the United States?

They have almost no presence on Twitter. I thought I had found the Twitter account for the bank but I am updating with what looks like it could be the real thing. But I don’t know. They have such little presence on the social web that it is hard to tell. Even so, this Twitter feed is just aggregated Google News alerts. Is that it?

What a disappointment. We are told that Citibank will do a more detailed look at how small business uses social media. We sure hope so. For these results say very little about social media and its adoption in the small business market.

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