Why local business support is needed to support growth

Delivering local business support programmes at scale

Maybe* has undertaken a range of research to better understand the social media skills and capabilities of businesses set against ever-changing consumer habits. Data has been analysed on over 3.9m UK businesses, supported by surveys completed by over 2,250 businesses and consumers

Disconnect between consumers and businesses

The most crucial finding is that there is a huge disconnect between consumers and businesses, with consumers being vastly more engaged with social media than businesses. 79.1% of consumers spend over seven hours a week on social media. Meanwhile, of those businesses with social media accounts, only 29.2% are spending more than five hours a week managing their accounts or creating content. Social media drives purchasing decisions in a way that is not at all reflected in the resources the surveyed businesses put into their social media work.

The data that Maybe* holds shows that only 31% of UK businesses have social media accounts, and only 19% are active on social media. Of businesses with active social media accounts, over 90% do not post to social media at weekends, despite this being the time when most consumers are likely to be on social media and making purchases.

Maybe* research

Our research suggests that there is both a significant opportunity and a major risk for businesses and their local economies. There is clearly significant demand for quality local provision of a wide range of products and services, but also a large gap between how local businesses communicate and where consumers go for information, advice, and to comment. There is an urgent need to upskill businesses, evidenced by 65.6% of businesses surveyed, who are keen to access support and training to help them grow their business.

Advertising spend: Most businesses that use social media do not spend any money advertising on it (72.3%). They don’t believe that they have the skills, or that it can work for their business. Of those who do advertise, spend is low, with only 16.3% of all survey respondents spending over £100 a month on social media advertising.

Measuring impact on sales: There is a lack of understanding of digital marketing. Most businesses (64.8%) recognise the significant impact of digital marketing on sales, but a similar amount (63.8%) do not take the time or are unable to measure the impact that social media activity has on their sales. Only a minority use social media management tools (16.6%). This is even though 43.1% of surveyed businesses make over a quarter of their sales online, and 31% of them sell services or products that are only available online.

Investment in time, people, and resources: Whilst consumers are spending an increasing amount of time on social media few businesses spend more than five hours a week managing their social media accounts. Consumers use social media to discover what to buy, to research before buying, and to chat with their friends and family about their decisions, yet businesses are not present in places where they can capitalise on these conversations. This lack of attention from businesses in social media is also reflected in how they apply resources to social media, with only a small number (16%) investing in third-party specialist support, and most businesses do not have any staff whose main role is to look after their social media accounts.

Skills and training: The lack of digital training and skills (60% of businesses have had no recent digital skills training) is an important factor, with business owners and employees simply not having the right tools and information to make the most of the social media revolution. There is evidence of demand for more training, with:

  • 65.6% of respondent businesses are interested in accessing support/training to help them with marketing
  • 58.3% want support with digital skills for social media, 
  • 46.2% looking for assistance with digital skills for e-commerce to grow their business,

Critically, respondent businesses had a level of digital knowledge and experience above the average (they were signed up to panels on the Survey Monkey digital platform), and were clearly innovative, with 36.4% of businesses having launched a new product or service in the last six months. However, even these businesses do not have a good understanding of the potential of social media and are not investing sufficient time or money into it compared to its market importance.

Learn more about our programmes

In response to this research, we have run match-funded Local Business Support programs with a wide range of local authorities. These programmes have reached over 25,000 businesses and have proven to increase footfall, safeguard jobs and create new employment. 

Learn more about our programmes

Getting social media right is hard. We make it easy with data-driven, AI-powered social tools that help you create and schedule content, boost posts, and learn from 8m+ other businesses. No more guesswork, get your social media questions answered 24/7. Book a call to learn more ?