3 reasons small businesses give for not using social media

reasons why small businesses are not on social media

It seems there are still some small business social media skeptics amongst us?

Recently at a networking event, the following words were confidently stated to me by a small business owner, “social media is a fad and my consumers are not using it”- seriously. Unfortunately, this guy is not on his own, there are many small business owners who feel the same way. 

So, does your small business really need social media? Uhm, yes.

In 2013, Sensis released a comprehensive study of social media across the Australian business landscape, (you can download it here), which shone a big, fat light down the gap between small business and their understanding and use of social media. As Sensis themselves summised in the report, “.. despite consumer usage of social media becoming mainstream, businesses are still lagging behind”.

Amongst the many statistics this report put forward were these gems:

  • 30% of Australian small business use social media
  • 29% of Australian small business don’t have a social media strategy

Using data from the Reserve Bank of Australia, there are just over 2 million ‘small’ businesses in Australia, meaning roughly 600,000 are using social media, and of those around 180,000 have no strategy. These are staggering figures, made even more staggering when you look at what the Australian public are doing on social media.

  • 65% of all Australians use social media (with Facebook being the biggest platform) – there are around 13 million on Facebook alone and 3 million on LinkedIn
  • 45% of Australian users access social media at least once per day
  • 7 hours is the amount of time a typical user spends on social media

Now, in the rapidly changing environment that is social media, I would confidently assume two and a half years on from this study, the numbers have changed. Usage, access and time spent on site will have increased without question. But sadly, I don’t believe the shift in the numbers around small businesses and their use of social media, or the existence of a strategy for those that do, would’ve followed suit. Can you see the gap?

It’s not that small businesses don’t believe social media exists, most have their own social media profiles, it’s just that small business social media skeptics geniunely don’t believe they need it for their business.

Ask the skeptic why, and you will get one of these three reasons:

  • We just don’t see the ROI of social media
  • We don’t have the time
  • We don’t feel that our consumers on social media

Let’s take a look at why I call BS on these objections, one by one.


As business environments become more and more challenging, making sure you are getting ROI on any form of marketing is a good thing. But, with a complete lack of understanding as to how to integrate social media into marketing plans, are the businesses stating this as a key issue actually measuring the return correctly or even knowing what they are trying to measure? I’d say not.

The search for a concrete metric from which to measure social media ROI has always been a challenge, and trying to adapt traditional media metrics is, as David Alston of MarketingProfs wrote way back in 2009, ‘akin to sticking a square peg in a round hole’, he also raised the exceptionally pertinent question ‘what’s the ROI of ignoring social media?’. He has a point.

TIP: To be able to confidently set and then measure your return, first you need to understand why you are using social media – what’s your strategy? Don’t forget social media should be considered one tool in your marketing tool box, it should not be treated differently or separately to how you would treat email marketing, radio advertising or networking – and it should be working toward acheiving your overall business & marketing strategies. Once you understand the ‘what’ around your social media, only then can you put an ROI around it and identify the metrics you will use to measure them. “Don’t blame social media for not increasing your sales if all you are posting on your platforms are inspirational quotes and cat video’s.”


If you don’t have the time to market your business directly into the environment your consumers are consuming, then you don’t have time to be in buisness – just saying. After running many social media workshops, attended by small business owners on the verge of tears from being ‘socially’ overwhelmed, I have recognised one commonality. They all jump into social media head first, starting a LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest account because they think that’s where they need to be (usually because their son or daughter told them so) – and then they can’t keep up. Are they pinning, posting, updating or uploading? Social media needs to be approached with consideration, just as you would with traditional media. Again, what’s your strategy (there’s a theme here), who are you targeting and where on social media are they hanging out? Once you have gathered this information you may find out you only need to be on one or two platforms, maximum, which will make it much easier for you to manage.

TIP: Never lose sight of this simple rule, ‘you control social media, it doesn’t control you’. Gather insights into where your most desirable target market is and what they are doing on social media, then focus your attentions there – add to your social media portfolio when you are ready or if your audience profile shifts. Secondly, learn how to use social media scheduling tools such as Hootsuite, as scheduling your activity will save you both time and resources – giving you back valuable time in your day.


On top of the already cited Sensis study showing us that at least 65% of Australians are using social media, I will let some other statistics from Social Media Australia (Feb 2015) do the talking;

  • 13.8 million Australians are on Facebook
  • 2.7 million active Australian users on Twitter
  • 3.3 million Australians on LinkedIn
  • 350,000 Australians on Pinterest
  • 1.07 million on Snapchat
  • 4 million Australians on Instagram

Audience demographics specific to Australia are on the lean side, but looking at global data the fastest growing age group on Facebook are 55+ and in social media overall, the over 50s are getting on board at a rapid rate. And contrary to popular folklore, the youth of today are not leaving Facebook in droves, in fact, according to the Pew Research Centre, the percentage of online users aged 18-29’s on Facebook rose 3% to 87% in 2014.

Enough said.

If you still think your small business doesn’t need to be on social media, then I will hazard a guess you also think the earth is flat – and nothing will convince you otherwise. But remember this, whilst the principles of marketing haven’t changed, it’s still all about connecting your brand with the right consumer at the right time, with the right message, the methods of marketing have.  And, it’s your responsibility as a business owner/marketer to keep up, otherwise you will get left behind.


About Zena Churchill

Zena Churchill is a Director at Max & Buddy Consulting. She has worked in senior level business roles across national and multinational corporations, as well as being a small business owner. Zena is a strategic thinker and brings a practical, straight-forward approach to marketing and social media. She has a passion for training & development running practical business workshops for small business. Zena is a Certified Practising Marketer (AMI), sometimes tutors in Marketing at the University of Wollongong and is a Senior Consultant with Trinity P3.

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