Survey Points to Challenges Entrepreneurs Face When Using Social Media

One in four small-business owners plan to spend most of their investment dollars on social media, online advertising and marketing this spring, according to a recent Manta survey. Here are two challenges they face and how to best address them.

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By Karen Tiber Leland

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Social media is a priority investment among entrepreneurs, according to a new survey released yesterday by Manta, an online small-business community. Of the more than 1,200 small-business owners surveyed, while only 5 percent say they plan on hiring new staff this quarter, close to 26 percent plan to invest most of their money in social media, online advertising and marketing.

But while nearly half of respondents say they've increased time spent on social media in the last year, the increased activity comes with its challenges. Here are two of the biggest hurdles, according to the survey's major findings, and how to tackle them:

Related: 14 Steps to Generating Leads on Twitter

Calculating your social media ROI:
Sixty-one percent of surveyed small-business owners don't see an ROI from their company's social media activity.

Measuring ROI on social media is often not an exact science. The problem is that while you can measure how much of your web traffic comes from which source -- say Twitter, Pinterest and Google search, for example -- you can't always measure the invisible impact it has on your brand and business, such as increasing your credibility and visibility or generating third-party referrals.

Your solution: First off, take a broader view of what social media can do for your business. Determine your specific goals, beyond increasing sales.

What are other small-business owners saying? According to the Manta survey, 36 percent of entrepreneurs want to acquire and engage new customers, 19 percent say they want to use social media to generate leads and referrals and 17 percent are interested in driving awareness and marketing.

Next, put in place easy to use analytics that can tell you what's producing the best results. Two great tools include:

  • Google Analytics. This allows you to track how much traffic you get on a given day, week or month; where it's coming from; and how engaged your visitors are.
  • Take any dedicated URL from your website or specific landing page, put it in bitly and in seconds have a shorter URL, which you can then track on the site to see the number of people who have clicked through, on which days and from where.

Related: 3 Emerging Social Networks to Keep an Eye On

Keeping social media platforms up-to-date:
When surveyed entrepreneurs were asked which social media platform is the hardest for them to maintain, Facebook was number-one followed by LinkedIn, Twitter and lastly, Pinterest.

Social media management takes time. It's not a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-let's-see-what-sticks phenomenon. Many of my clients come to me with the complaint that they just don't have the time or resources to work their various platforms.

Your solution: To begin with, create a six-month editorial calendar for your social media. Consider what topics you want to cover based on your business expertise, taking into account holidays and seasons.

Once you've mapped out your content plan, use a social media managing tool such as HootSuite, which lets you schedule future Facebook posts and Twitter messages. They also offer an integrated social analytics tool that will help you measure engagement -- and better calculate your ROI.

Related: What Brands Can Learn About Social-Media Authenticity From Kobe Bryant

Karen Tiber Leland

Author and President of Sterling Marketing Group

Karen Leland is the founder of Sterling Marketing Group, where she helps entrepreneurs and executives build stronger personal, team and business brands. She is also the best-selling author of The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand.

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