By Marcus Leach

Over 80 per cent of older small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) chiefs admitted to being afraid of being left behind by more social media-savvy rivals.

The small business bosses are also sceptical about the merits of social media to promote their products and services, finds a new UK-wide poll by Gresham Public Relations.

The poll, in association with www.onenewspage.com, asked 300 SME chiefs aged 40+ about their attitudes to social media, including popular websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Although more than three quarters (77%) of SME bosses said they had experimented with social media to promote their businesses, four in 10 felt it was much more relevant for younger business people.

A quarter of SME heads polled felt that using social media to try to promote their business was just “one big fat waste” of their personal time.

But not all SMEs owners had a negative view of the commercial value of engaging with social media, however.

More than half (57%) said that social media had made a “positive contribution” on business turnover.

While only one in 10 felt that the reputation of their business had been tarnished by comments made on social media sites.

What constituted social media for older SME bosses was almost solely interpreted as just Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Over three quarters felt these global websites were the entirety of social media channels.

“Our research also found that four out of five SME bosses admitted that by bodging their social media efforts, they risked losing out to rivals who were more proficient at modern digital communications. To be frank, they felt very out of their depth when it comes to modern marketing communications, and were put off by the technology aspects to the point of giving up,” Neil Boom, Managing Director, Gresham PR, said.

“A high percentage of companies are half-heartedly jumping on the social media bandwagon but once onboard are unsure what to do next. Our message is that to extract value from social media, smaller business owners should treat it as seriously as they do all their other marketing efforts and improve their skills so they lose the fear of the unknown. During difficult trading conditions every little bit of marketing makes a difference.”

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