According to a new University of Maryland study (via eMarketer), social media adoption among small businesses has doubled, and these companies are satisfied with their results. Here's a graph from eMarketer showing the primary way in which these businesses are using social media:
What struck me about this was notice that the most popular ways for using social media all involve self-promotion. Posting status updates, blogging and tweeting about expertise. But notice what the LAST tactic listed is:
"Use Twitter as a customer service channel."
In many ways this suggests that these businesses are still very new to social media. Because when adopting social media use for the first time, most companies will use it as a marketing tool in the way that they are most familiar with. That means they use social media to broadcast and self-promote.
And notice that when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of its social media usage, 73% of respondents placed "Identify and attract new customers" as the top priority. But only 61% said their efforts met their expectations. This suggests to me that the expectations these companies have for their social media usage is being stifled by HOW they are using the tools. They want engagement, but aren't doing a good job of BEING engaging, it seems.
But my guess/hope is that as companies become more familiar with social media tools and their capabilities, that we'll see 'Posting status updates' moving further down that list, and see actual customer engagement becoming a priority for social media usage. THAT is where the true potential of social media for businesses lies.