I came across this article in Computer Weekly, about how SMEs are using Twitter to save on marketing and recruitment costs. Whilst the sample size was only 500, if you take the findings that 17% use Twitter, then that extrapolates to a very large number when you consider that there are 4.6 million SMEs in the UK. The question for me is whether this is a short-term craze (like say CB radio), or is it a sustainable business tool that we should all be using ?

The first thing to be aware of is that Social Media and youth are not necessarily correlated. In fact, the group with the biggest increase in Social Media usage in 2008 was 35-48 year olds, with adult usage of MySpace, FaceBook  and LinkedIn growing from 8% to 35%. The median user age of Twitter is currently 31 and rising.

Companies like Dell certainly believe Twitter is worth the effort as they report $1m revenue attributable to their Twitter account in the past year. The fact that the use of social networks quadrupled in the past year, that 75% of the online population now engages in some sort of online social behaviour, and that social networking sites now attract one out of every 20 web visits means that something is happening that shouldn’t be ignored.

My viewpoint is that, as a small business, you should probably hedge your bets. Build a great website as your primary marketing vehicle, then engage with several different flavours of social media to see if any of them bring you anything of business benefit. In the world of Office Live, we’re testing Social Media on several levels such as this blog site, Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo Answers and YouTube, to name but a few.

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