The impact of the local business support delivered by Maybe* to over 25,000 SME businesses

Maybe* has provided access to tools and expert training to more than 25,000 UK SMEs to help them improve their use of social media to communicate with customers.

Local Authorities delivered many of these programs through ERDF and UKCRF funding, with Maybe* providing market-leading digital support for businesses to increase their use of social media through a digital training hub. This hub features local case studies and extensive on-demand tools and training.

Only 19% of UK businesses have an active social media presence

Despite there being approximately 3.9 million SME businesses listed on Google in the UK, only 19% have an active social media presence, and less than 1% post on a monthly basis. In contrast, 82% of consumers say social media influences their lifestyle and purchasing decisions. Maybe* projects have positively impacted over 25,000 businesses by increasing their productivity, helping them adopt new technology, creating new jobs, and safeguarding others. These projects have also delivered significant increases in footfall across entire counties.

One of the most important aspects of the outreach Maybe* delivers is how successfully we reach and engage SME businesses, which is where many local business support programs struggle. The unit cost per participant to recruit businesses for participation for the project, including the outreach, was an average of £200 per business. In terms of the total project cost per business, the unit cost was £368, which includes the match funding of access to the Maybe* training platform per business trained. This compares favourably with recent ESF employee training programs, which in 2019 had a cost per participant of £2,000.

According to the evaluator, "the levels of engagement and footfall outcomes using geo-locational data are impressive. From a target of a 3% increase in footfall on the high streets, the participating businesses achieved a 7.4% increase in footfall compared to non-participating businesses. The output targets were met and exceeded."

Why programs like these are so important

Research reveals that 86% of consumers spend over 7 hours a week on social media, and 82% say it strongly influences their purchasing decisions. Despite this, only 19% of UK SMEs are active on social media.

When asked, 66% of SME businesses say they want access to training to help them grow their business, but 60% have had no recent social media training; business owners and employees do not currently have access to the knowledge or tools they need to make the most of the communication revolution created by consumers increasing use of social media. See more press coverage.

Key impacts: Increasing social media activity increases footfall and local employment

The impact on the participating SME businesses has been explored in the participant surveys and businesses' conversations.

There are common findings that emerge from each business include: 

Visit counts since the beginning of the pilot period to participating businesses have shown a consistent outperformance in many areas compared to the total weekly visit counts observed in the wider town geofence. Over the test period participating businesses showed an indexed increase of 40.8% compared to the town geofence. This specific example is from Ledbury.

Business feedback

  1. They have a better understanding of the importance of social media for their business
  2. They gained better knowledge about how to use social media in marketing
  3. They are now more likely to take part in further training in the business use of social media
  4. By using their grant they:
    1. Had a better understanding of how using social media can contribute to business results
    2. Improved engagement with customers
    3. Increased sales - directly attributable to their social media activity
    4. Increased the amount of time they spend managing their social media accounts
  5. Over the next 12 months, the majority will:
    1. Increase their use of social media 
    2. Continue to use the Maybe* platform and tools
    3. Increase their spending on Facebook and Instagram Ads
  6. All said that the programme had given them confidence in using social media more effectively.
  7. They now understood the value of investing time and money into social media and were prepared to invest more in the coming year.

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