As a content marketer, I spend a lot of time talking to small business owners about blogs, social media and email marketing. While it sounds good in theory, and I know we have had lots of success with the handful of companies we work with, I often wondered about small businesses in general. Are they taking advantage of the benefits of these tools?

While I could find lots of research about what Coke and Nike were doing, there weren’t many studies about small businesses, so for the last four years we have asked small businesses about their online activities. In this year’s study we surveyed 200 companies with less than 100 employees.

Past studies focused on social media platforms. This year we included more questions about blogging and email marketing. With Google publically emphasizing the importance of content, we wanted to see if the message was trickling down. Were they creating a steady stream of original content to share on their blogs and in email campaigns? Were they doing it regularly? And what kind of information were they sharing?

email-vs-blogBlogs vs Email

We were pleased to see so many companies answering positively. We found a significant percentage of companies embracing both of these tools. 63% of the companies we surveyed indicated their website included a blog. And about the same number, 65% of the companies are distributing information via email.
This ratio was the same across most industries, but when we looked at the data by company size some interesting trends emerged. While the smallest companies (1 person) are most likely to report the existence of a company blog, their larger counter parts are clearly more likely to embrace the opportunities presented by email newsletters.

 

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So what are they writing about?

There was a wide range of responses, but the majority of the companies indicated they were sharing product information and company updates. We were surprised that only 30% of the companies used blogs or newsletters to showcase their results with case studies. Especially for B2B companies, this seems like a natural way to demonstrate expertise. Only 20% of the companies in the study were using survey tools.

So the big take away from this part of the study was the fact that if you want to stand out, surveys and cases studies will prevent your blog or newsletter from being like the hundreds of other pieces of content already available to your readers. It will be interesting because it is content only you can write.

 

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Regular updates

Another take away from the study was the message about consistency. The vast majority of companies using these tools seem to be doing it with some regularity. About 80% of the companies in the study who distribute newsletters are doing so monthly, while more than 60% update their blogs several times a month.

The lesson? If you are going to get into the content marketing game, you need to have a plan to create new content often.

 

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Everyone is involved

Creating a steady stream of interesting and engaging content is time consuming. We wanted to know who is providing direction and who is doing the heavy lifting when it comes to content generation. While owners are almost always involved, 44% of the companies indicated they have a dedicated staff member generating content. There are also signs that some companies are spreading the work to a larger team as 24% encourage all their employees to be involved in content generation.

Spreading the work around makes it much easier to maintain a consistent schedule without it becoming an overwhelming burden for any one member of the company.

So what about your organization? Are you about average or are you winning the content marketing game? Want to learn more? You can download the full report here to see how you stack up.