Why aren't our small businesses on Facebook

IT’S BECOME OBVIOUS THAT SOCIAL MEDIA SITES LIKE FACEBOOK ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF MARKETING. BUT ARE NEW ZEALAND SMES RIDING THE WAVE OR BEING LEFT BEHIND? MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONAL, ANDREA BREWSTER, WHO RECENTLY WROTE HER HONOURS THESIS ON THIS VERY TOPIC EXPLAINS.

 Facebook – what’s the big deal?

The most recent New Zealand data shows that 2.5 million Kiwis are active on Facebook. It’s good news for businesses too – over 80% of those users discover brands and products on the site, and 55% engage with them to learn more. Facebook is an ideal marketing tool for many SMEs and can help increase leads, sales and customer retention when used effectively.

Many SMEs I worked with at marketing agencies were struggling to grasp this opportunity – they knew they wanted to be ‘on Facebook’, but had no idea why or how to do it as part of a marketing plan. For some, social media was all too hard and a bit scary, while others were frustrated at the lacklustre results.

What’s the problem?

For my Honours thesis project, I researched international SMEs and found many were missing out on the opportunities offered by social media marketing, often because they just didn’t understand it.  

So I designed a theoretical model to explore some of the main barriers stopping New Zealand SMEs from utilising Facebook and surveyed 50 owners and managers of businesses with less than 20 employees. 

The final results showed that the strongest factor influencing these businesses’ decisions to adopt social media was how key decision makers, such as the business owner, perceive it. The other main barriers were time constraints and a lack of human resource and intellectual capital.

Figure 1: Theoretical model of constraints to Facebook adoption

But more money and human resource might not be the answer. Only 33% of businesses said they would increase Facebook usage if they had more financial resource and 40% if they had more human resource. Almost half those surveyed said they would be likely to increase their use of Facebook for marketing if they had more time. While 46% said they would be likely to increase usage if others in the business were more confident with Facebook. 

What now?

Social media, particularly Facebook, is ideal for SMEs to build strong customer relationships and increase goodwill, referrals and word-of-mouth business. It’s not a sales tool – the aim is to build a stronger brand over time, by engaging with your customers in a relaxed and genuine way.

Deloitte Private Partner, Ian Fay, adds that while Facebook is important, there are other avenues as well.

“Social media can be a valuable part of a business’s marketing strategy but it is important that businesses identify which channel is best for their business. For example, technology businesses with an international reach may focus on Twitter, professional services may focus on LinkedIn, while consumer businesses gain greater value from Facebook.”

“When deciding on a social media strategy, it is important to measure return on investment and ensure that time and money is spent on the channels that yield the greatest results. Smart use of analytics coupled with good governance needs to be adopted to continually monitor outcomes.”  

Andrea's top tips:

·       Identify team members who enjoy using social media and make them your Facebook champions

·       Consider outsourcing to social media marketing specialists as part of your marketing strategy

·       Follow other brands that have a strong social media presence. Take note of what they’re doing, and how they talk to their customers

·       Experiment with different types of content and post frequency and using Insights to see what’s working

·       Try paid Facebook advertising for targeting audiences most likely to be interested in your product

·       Seek out resources and information, and organisations like the Chamber of Commerce that could help provide training.

The full research report is available here

Contact Andrea on LinkedIn


Ian is a Wellington-based Deloitte Private Partner who enjoys helping clients expand their businesses overseas and managing the inevitable tax challenges that arise. He aims to find solutions that work best for the client without a one size fits all approach.