TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 7, 2012) - A new BMO Bank of Montreal study released today suggests that a third of Canadian businesses have a social media presence. The same number of entrepreneurs suggest that social media has helped their business prosper.
Over the past few years, social media has become an integral part of everyday life for most Canadians. With more than 18 million Canadian members, over half of our population is on Facebook alone. Businesses have been quick to seize upon the advantages of being present in this online sphere.
The study, conducted by Leger Marketing, also reveals that:
- Two in five (43%) business owners who anticipate growth this year agree that social media has helped their business prosper.
- By sector, businesses in the arts, travel and tourism industries make more use of social media than other industries - 67 per cent* use at least one form of social media for business purposes. This compares to 33 per cent* of businesses in mining, oil & gas and manufacturing sectors.
- Eastern Canadian businesses are the least likely to see the merits of social media, with 48% saying that social media has not helped their business. By contrast, 36 per cent of businesses in Western Canada say that social media has helped their business.
"Earlier this year, BMO surveyed business owners and found that half of Canadian small businesses believe that social media has the potential to increase their profitability. Mid-way into 2012, almost 50 per cent of those who anticipate growth attribute it in part to their online presence. Canadian businesses are clearly embracing social media as a cost effective yet powerful marketing and customer relations tool," says Cathy Pin, Vice President, Commercial banking, BMO Bank of Montreal.
Of businesses that use social media, the study found that Facebook is the most important social media site, with over a quarter of businesses active (27 per cent) on the site. Fifteen per cent of businesses use LinkedIn while only one in 10 use Twitter. The most frequent business tweets come from Ontario, where one in six small businesses have an active account, compared to 6 per cent of businesses in Eastern Canada.
Social Media as a Marketing Tool
The study also confirmed the top 3 reasons businesses use social media:
- To promote brand or reputation (33 per cent)
- To gather ideas or suggestions from people (23 per cent)
- To sell business products or services (23 per cent)
"Social media, while still a relatively new communication and marketing channel, is definitely here to stay. We anticipate it playing an increasingly important role for Canadian businesses, as they look for cost effective ways to open new markets and broaden and deepen their connection with customers," said Cathy Pin, Vice President, Commercial Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal. "Our customers are also telling us they value opportunities to interact with other businesses, network online and share insights and experiences. That's why we recently launched a new online community for business owners," added Ms. Pin.
The BMO SmartSteps for Business Online Community is a virtual hub with social media features and tools, including a blog, live Twitter feed, and hot topic polls, for small businesses to get engaged online. Business owners access over 100 podcasts that provide advice from top industry experts on topics including developing a business plan, managing cash flow, and the importance of social media.
For those businesses that use social media tools, Facebook is the most popular choice at 70 per cent, followed by LinkedIn (32 per cent), and Twitter (31 per cent).
Pritesh Gandhi, Senior Manager, Digital Marketing & Strategy, BMO Bank of Montreal, notes that social media tools have become more advanced over the past five years, and offer various benefits to business owners. "While the most popular application is Facebook, there are other networks and tools that can offer benefits to businesses. For instance, LinkedIn is very effective in building and maintaining contacts for recruitment and knowledge sharing purposes, while the effective use of Twitter can help to keep the dialogue open with your customers and respond to queries in real time."
The challenge is that a social media presence takes time to build, and the impact on the bottom line is more difficult to measure than some more traditional forms of marketing.
"At BMO Bank of Montreal, we advise our clients that it's important to identify precisely how they want to use social media to reach their audience/to meet their business objectives. With so many tools at one's disposal, properly targeting these efforts will help generate an effective social media marketing strategy, and help measure social media success," added Ms. Pin.
The online survey was conducted by Leger Marketing between March 21, 2012 and April 12, 2012, using a sample of 500 Canadian business owners. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of ±4.38 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
*asterisk denotes small sample size