This week we turn back to social media and a new report that shows most companies are still only dabbling with social media as a business tool, while the Parallels 2010 conference confirms what most of us suspect: the SMB cloud market is going to be huge over the next five years.

Dabbling With Social Media

Online marketing consultancy E-Consultancy (news, site) has just published the results of new research that shows that while many companies have looked at social media, the majority of them are still uncommitted and still dabbling.

The Value of Social Media Report, produced by E-consultancy in association with Online Marketing Summit, looks at the level of social media marketing being carried out by organizations, the tactics being used and the business objectives they are trying to impact through related activity.

Based on a survey of over 400 mainly US-based SMBs and enterprises during December and January 2010, it shows that two-thirds of companies (61%) say that they “have experimented with social media, but not done that much.”

Just as startling is the fact that almost two-thirds of respondents (61%) say their organizations are “poor” (34%) or “very poor” (27%) at measuring ROI while a third of respondents (32%) are getting less than 1x the return on investment from social media.

Unsurprisingly Facebook is used by 85% of companies using social media as part of their marketing strategy. This is followed by Twitter (77%), LinkedIn (58%) and YouTube (49%).

If you want to find out more the 59-page report is not expensive. Could it be that social media is not the business tool everyone thinks it is. To see, you can download it from E-Consultancy.

Is Parallels In the Clouds?

According to reports from the Parallels 2010 conference, which is just closing, one of the principal themes running through the week and the Opening Summit Keynotes, is that the SMB sector is going to be the cloud services hot spot for the next five years.

Both Melanie Posey, Research Director at IDC (news, site) and Serguei Beloussov, Chairman and CEO of Parallels addressed the subject in the opening address and both pointed firmly at the word ‘services’ rather than the word ‘cloud’ in underling how big this marketing is actually going to get.

According to the report that appears in cloud services provider iomart hosting’s blog Rack Pack, both insisted that SMBs need services not technology as well as a compelling business reason to spend very tight reserves on further IT services.

SMBs need to buy into the concept of ‘Business as a Service’ if the Cloud is to reap the benefits that the hype suggests will be delivered.

In this respect IDC research shows:

  • Estimated 73.5 million small businesses worldwide
  • 100 million SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) businesses operating across the globe
  • 40% of all IT spend is attributable to the SMB sector
  • 45% of this spend accounted for by businesses with less than 100 employees.

There was a lot more said in this respect during the opening summit that will provide food for thought for many cloud services providers.

Know Your Market, IDC Tells Vendors

We don’t want to dwell on the size of the SMB market too much, but IDC thinks vendors really need to understand it in order to take it on, and have as a result just releaseda study which analyzes the Western European business environment with particular focus on the SMB market size and structure.

The SMB segment is the backbone of the Western European economy. Its huge importance is supported by the fact that 99.8% of the region's business enterprises are companies with fewer than 500 employees, which together employ as much as 70% of the total employee workforce . . ." said Nina Bonagura, senior research analyst, IDC European Vertical Markets.

Major findings from the study highlight the following:

  • The  European economy is primarily composed of SMBs. According to the results of this study, there are 10,049,967 enterprises in Western Europe distributed across 16 countries. There are just fewer than 24,500 large companies with more than 500 employees, representing a share of 0.24%.
  • Significance of the top 5 countries. Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the U.K. account for 72.7% of Western Europe's enterprises and for more than 77% of the region's large companies.
  • Retail/wholesale is the largest marketplace with 30% of the enterprise universe, business services has 19.5%. Manufacturing has 10%.

You can access and buy the report  from the IDC website

HP Targets SMBs – Again!

HP returns to SMB education this week with the introduction of a range of services for small- to midsize data center operations that help improve efficiency, increase the flexibility of IT budgets and ensure service-level commitments.

Maybe you remember a couple of weeks ago , it introduced two cloud computing services that help companies understand the cloud and how it can supplement their IT and business strategy. This week’s offerings continue in the same vein.

With this portfolio of services from HP (news, site) owners of small- to mid-size data centers can maximize business return on existing assets as well as simplifying management of multi-vendor environments.

It also introduced flexible procurement options for custom technology services that benefit clients and the reseller channel.

There are a lot of new services here and are available directly from HP and through the company's reseller channel. If you’re looking for more information have a look at their website.

Intermedia Gets It Together

Intermedia (news, site) which specializes in Microsoft Exchange hosting, has just released the first hosted unified communications (UC) service designed specifically for SMBs. Called Hosted Unison, the service combines telephony, email, instant messaging and more into a single service delivered over the Internet.

The service is based on proprietary technology from Unison and combines technology and services built specifically for small businesses to create a cost effective, easy-to-manage communications offering that mirrors UC offerings available for large companies.

It also supports mobile synchronization of email, contacts and calendar. Intermedia manages hosted Unison service delivery from start to finish, including -- through an affiliate telecommunications company -- the provision of phone numbers and voice service. The service is backed by Intermedia’s support, migration tools and an infrastructure that includes four data centers.

The thinking behind it is that complex implementations and high costs have shut small- and medium-sized businesses out of unified communications. It's Intermedia’s plan to redress the balance.