Facebook was the platform of choice for small businesses looking to use free offerings from social networks to promote their goods and services, but when it came to paying for promotion via social media, the result was quite the opposite, according to an email survey of 3,434 MerchantCircle member merchants, conducted by Reply.

When asked which free social media platforms they used to promote their businesses, respondents overwhelmingly tapped Facebook, at 68.7 percent, topping Google Plus (49.2 percent), Twitter (32.8 percent), other (19.1 percent), and none (18.6 percent).

However,74.3 percent of respondents said they did not use any paid products from social networks to promote their businesses, with only 6.6 percent using Facebook’s offerings, compared with 12.6 percent for Google Plus, 10.8 percent for other, and 1.3 percent for Twitter.

In a survey by MerchantCircle last December, 96 percent of the more than 2,500 small business owners who responded were aware of Facebook’s targeted display ad offering, but only 23 percent used it. Of those 23 percent, 28 percent said they would not continue doing so, citing as reasons:

  • 66 percent said they did not acquire new customers.
  • 41 percent said the service was too expensive.
  • 37 percent reported low click-through rates.

In the latest survey, MerchantCircle did not find much reason for optimism, as 42.6 percent of respondents who do not currently use paid social media products said they were very unlikely to do so within the next three to six months, and 37.2 percent were indifferent, with only 20.2 percent answering that they were very likely to explore paid products.

Respondents were also asked how their feelings changed about Facebook after its May 18 initial public offering, and 69.1 percent said their opinions were unchanged, compared with 20.8 percent who replied negatively, 5.6 percent positively, and 4.5 percent other.

Readers: What can Facebook do to entice more small businesses to sample its paid advertising and promotion offerings?