The Disconnect Between What SMBs Use Facebook For and What Consumers Use it For

Last week at Kelsey it was reported that an “astounding 41.7% of SMBs surveyed by BIA/Kelsey say they see Facebook most importantly as an acquisition tool”. Astounding is right. That is a huge disconnect with reality.

My recent survey of how consumers find lawyers tallied that 2.1% of the US adult internet users would start their search at their favorite social network. 32.7% indicated that they would start their search at a search engine or elsewhere on the internet. In other words a consumer looking for a lawyer is almost 16 times as likely to start their internet search for a specialty lawyer anyplace BUT Facebook. They indicated that they were 5 times as likely to start their search in the printed Yellow Pages than on their favorite social network. Granted this is lawyers but it is likely that these percentages hold roughly true for other industry segments as well. We have seen a similar disconnect at our Local University presentations where SMB attendees have reported that 68% Have Facebook Pages but only 28% have claimed their Google Places Listing.

Facebook is an incredible platform for retention, community building, awareness but I see this huge disconnect amongst SMBs that think that it is prime territory for client acquisition. If any of you have clients that have missed this critical point, I am reprinting last week’s graph sideways so that it is more obvious. (The number on the far right is Facebook.)


This disconnect could actually lead to annoyed customers rather than new customers. Facebook is social. Direct customer acquisition activities is just the opposite. My wife said to me the other day that she DID NOT want her lawyer, doctor or dentist interacting with her in that environment. Certainly there are some business types that she wouldn’t mind interacting with, for example the local cupcake bakery, but even there interacting needs to be more social than anything. I don’t think her atypical. I think Facebook runs a grave risk of losing their core users if client acquisition becomes the standard operating mode there.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
The Disconnect Between What SMBs Use Facebook For and What Consumers Use it For by

25 thoughts on “The Disconnect Between What SMBs Use Facebook For and What Consumers Use it For”

  1. Really appreciate you sharing the numbers. In some regard this dynamic is fascinating, although unfortunate (unless you’re a competitor). Is it simple ignorance or a stubborn resistance to the actual data?

  2. Thank you, Mike! This is my favorite:

    Q: “So why do you have/want a facebook business page?”
    A: “I don’t know, because everyone else has one.”

    Facebook and other social networks are just not quite there yet in terms of delivering leads regularly to small businesses. I see it moreso as opportunity for promotion. Some get too involved/engaged with facebook when the return isn’t there (yet).

  3. @Bill
    There is a little of both in this. Many use Facebook for personal reasons and that makes the transition to business use easier than learning something as complicated as local search or adwords.

    There you have it.

  4. In my business the interaction and engagement on facebook is off the charts compared to my blog, email list, or other means of communicating with customers/prospects. That speaks right to what you said in this post, “retention, community building, awareness”. That’s exactly how I use facebook.

  5. @Chad
    Building your own community at your own blog is very hard. That being said, I am a big fan of using Facebook in conjunction with your own content and not in isolation. I think long haul (3-5 years) it is possible to create a blog that does a great job of tracking and funneling clients. In that scenario, you use Facebook for what Facebook is good for… short, sweet communications but when you have something more substantial content wise you send folks over to your blog. This has the benefit of helping feed strong content to Google as well as letting clients get to know you even better.

  6. Great info Mike! Of the 100+ local businesses we work with, exactly 0 have ever received a lead or sale related to their face book page. I understand that a business has to work very hard to build any real presence and community on line, and very few small business owners have the time, or skills.

    That said, I have seen facebook become part of a holistic Internet branding stretegy (the old 7 touches to have a contact from a prospect). In fairness I would have to assign one of our recent large client sales to the fact that the President followed my company facebook page. Even though we have knew each other for years, I doubt he would have even known we do Internet stuff.

    Facebook is part of Branding your business, not a lead generation tactic.

  7. It’s great to see statistical evidence of what we already know! Social media is best used for branding and referrals! People don’t go to Facebook to solve their problems, they go there to have fun and socialize. Nobody likes going to a party and have someone there try to sell them something.>I’m sure there are some exceptions to the rule… but yet they are still exceptions. I hope everyone who reads this will offer their wisdom on the topic. Thank @Blumenthals for another nice post.

  8. I really agree with Eric’s take on things (above), specifically “People don’t go to Facebook to solve their problems, they go there to have fun and socialize.”

    Right now I don’t use FB for business, however I see things shifting soon as FB works to find ways to connect ‘social with business’.

    For those who remember, when the internet first started, people were blasted whenever commerce was introduced into the mix. However as is the case with many things (eg. Olympics) social ends up getting commercialized sooner or later.

  9. Mike-
    The vast majority of these busineses can be classified in the B2C Home improvement, and remodeling industry. (70% + of all). And of those most sell higher ticket services.

    I have a partner who works with a private group of 500+ business owners specifically on soical media marketing and focused on Face book in CA. They might have much broader information.

  10. Great post Mike,
    I can think of one exception. In North Tonawanda, NY there’s a hair salon that has consistently held the number one organic search result for “hair salon North Tonawanda,” with just her Facebook page. No website, but she does have an active FB profile. I’m a little curious how she pulls that off, not that any of her immediate competitors are SEO mavericks or anything but there are quite a few hair salons with websites. She’s doing something right. I’m glad it’s the exception and not the rule.

  11. Mike, Hi. The post is a great starting point for addressing the issues with business models on Facebook. Thx for sharing. I have a pet peeve when dangling prepositions appear, esp. in Title and headline (H1, H2, H3, etc.) elements. Might I suggest, “The Disconnect Between Why SMBs Use Facebook and Why Consumers Use it”. An exception is, of course, when using a dangling preposition (any vernacular / idiom / jargon) furthers character / persona development. Also, specific to using dangling prepositions in Title and headline elements, it may adversely effect character count limits. Rob

  12. @Andrew
    Making a webpage on Facebook is certainly an option. I though strongly agree with Matt McGee that using Facebook instead of a webpage is a long term losing tactic.

    My grammar skills are limited at best. As to the dangling participle issue while I will attempt to be more aware, I can not make any guarantees given that I am both author and editor.

  13. The sideways formatting did it for me.

    Color me #biased here.

    I think on both sides of the statistical equation it all depends on how fb/social is applied to the individual business.

    FB will never primarily be a search engine, but it is a referral engine – and referrals are newly acquired customers.

    Did I just say never?

    Something like the dental/medical space (tastefully inviting the connection, not spammy selling) could see organic amplification of what was formerly only offline word of mouth.

    Therefore, Facebook is facilitating the amplication of the message, and building the awareness.

    Total agreement that FB is about community building, retention, & awareness – and awareness is part of the buying cycle, of which social/fb is an ingedient. How large of an none too foul tasting ingedient depends on the individual business again.

    As an ingredient, I do see FB as prime territory for acquisition. Not the primary, but prime. Defining primary acquisition channels are historical anyway as we can only forecast and predict before tracking and analyzing.

    Would the alternative be for SMBs to ignore acquistion strategies/tactics thru the Facebook channel altogether?

    Again, I am totally biased here…and guess I gotta get to work on correlating and crunching an incredibly infinitesimal set of data so I can get some legs to the arguement.

  14. @Chris
    Facebook has done a terrible job of intergrating word of mouth business recommendations into their platform. While they might do a better job someday, in the meantime, it makes it difficult to get great ROI there for most (not all by any means) SMBs.

  15. They sure have. And if only ~10% of connections see the word of mouth, it’s tough to justify the resources.

    Reviews were there for awhile but disappeared, at least with a little warning.

    Reviews indexable on Bing, done deal.

  16. One of the biggest things I attempt to get SMBs to understand is that you need to be where your customers are while not getting caught up in the fervor.

    I have yet to see a significant return on time or money invested in social networks but do anticipate social signals and cross integration to trend up in 2013 as it relates to search.

    Even those who swear (usually social media peeps) that they have an ROI cannot give me any figures from social networking.

    Anyone have any?

    Good points about the uses of networks and influences because of it.

    I usually lurk in the background but had to chime in on this one!

  17. Crickets…but you got me, I’m reaching for an empty holster. I only have modest examples of ROI that I would honestly be ashamed to cite in a public forum. Small ROI, smaller sample – but present, defineable, & realized.

    No proof out of me though. Maybe in a future blog post or something. I’ll be sure to link it over.

    Efficient accurate tracking allows the proper ROI calculations, that’s a huge gray area too in my limited experience – seems the majority of SMBs I deal with struggle to answer the question of how they acquire new customers and especially how much they’re paying to do so.

    I liked this link on social ROI:

    ROI is list building, reviews, recommendations, tags in photos…all builds awareness…part of the buying cycle – in addition to the direct word of mouth.

    Accurate measurement is more than weeding through the chaff, it’s having the correct benchmarks – and that remains a huge challenge in defining social ROI.

  18. @Chris
    No need to apologize. ROI is difficult to measure when you are looking for retention, community building and awareness. They are all several steps away from a sale which is much easier to quantify.

    The lower frequency, less emotional and shorter time there is to a purchase cycle the less valuable social engagement is. IE everyone needs cars, they are emotionally engaged in the process and purchase has a moderate and repetitive frequency over a relatively long period… that makes for a great social engagement environment where a company can benefit from all the things that social offers. The final step of that long, emotional process is the local search at Google that leads to the trackable sale and the measurable ROI.

    Clients need a criminal lawyer very infrequently, have little or no emotional connection and usually the “purchase cycle” is very short. The client goes from need to Google Local search in no time flat.

    My point is that not every business is necessarily a good fit for social.

    But even in businesses that are a good fit for social it is notoriously difficult for SMBs to track the value of the pre purchase cycle. Often like in the car scenario above the business entity doing all the social work isn’t even the one that gets the sale.

    I am not saying that SMBs shouldn’t engage in social. I just think that they need to think through the presale role very carefully to be sure that the investment is worth it

    Post sale is another issue altogether… but even there the social networks have not done a good job of creating a great environment for SMBs to interact with their clients.

  19. Facebook is also losing its novelty. ComScore reports time spent on the site is down 12 percent from last year. Among teens, that drop is 42 PERCENT. The young adults used it 25 percent less.

    It’s becoming boring. And that’s not a good sign either, because according to other studies, people use it for entertainment more than self expression or communication.

    And of course, those studies also show that they use it less for finding information than anything else.

    I’ll be mentioning your article over on in a week or so. Thanks for the info.

  20. As a wedding photographer I could count on referral business from facebook a few years ago, merely by tagging clients and their friends in photos. Other photographers have reported a decline in the effectiveness of facebook recently.

  21. Great chart Mike. Thanks for sharing. In my opinion, the only way one can make FB deliver is to permanently interact with the audience, which is quite time consuming, and the results are rather poor.
    But think of this scenario: Facebook building its own search engine, integrated in the platform itself.
    Right now Facebook is killing the SMS with the Facebook Messenger for Android.
    I wonder how long now until, is trying to take over the search too.

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