Polly Barnfield OBE, CEO of social media specialists Maybe* discusses why local authorities must do more to meet SME’s demands for digital skills training.
Small businesses around the country have a lack of understanding of digital marketing. Business owners and their employees simply do not have the right tools and information to make the most of the social media revolution.
That may sound like a sweeping statement, but it is all backed up by findings we have published in a new white paper entitled “Levelling up the digital skills gap: How local authorities can help businesses transform their digital skills in response to evolving consumer behaviour”.
The study investigated the way small businesses use social media as a way of both connecting with consumers and selling products. And it has revealed a huge disconnect between the two, with consumers vastly more engaged than the businesses that wish to contact them.
The study found that whilst 79.1% of consumers spend over seven hours a week on social media only 19% post on a monthly basis. Of those with social media accounts only 29.2% are spending more than five hours a week managing their accounts or creating content.
This is despite the fact that 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.
This shows that social media drives purchasing decisions in a way that is not being reflected by the level of resource put into it by businesses.
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%).
And here’s the rub. There is clear evidence of demand for more training, with 65.6% of respondent businesses interested in accessing support/training to help them grow their business, 58.3% wanting support with digital skills for social media, 51.9% needing help with marketing and 46.2% looking for assistance with digital skills for e-commerce and web.
Our data shows that only 31% of UK businesses of 3.9m businesses listed on Google My Business have social media accounts, and only 19% are actually 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.
This means 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 that address consumer needs, 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.
All of these findings are relevant to the Government’s Levelling Up objectives, from boosting productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector; to restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging, and empowering local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agency.
The White Paper addresses a range of related issues, including advertising spend, measuring impact on sales, resourcing, and skills and training. It reveals:
– 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.
– Whilst consumers are spending an increasing amount of time on social media – 79.1% of individuals spend over seven hours a week on it – 75% of businesses are spending less 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.
– A 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.
If businesses in a location can successfully exploit social media and thrive, this will support the delivery of a number of the SPF investment priorities, meaning everyone’s a winner.
To access your free copy of the White Paper, visit – www.maybetech.com/gap