Why small business is winning big when it comes to social media

32825645 - social media

By Richard Hanscott, CEO, Yell

Not so long-ago doomsayers were predicting that small business and enterprise would soon disappear, with corporate conglomerates taking over and monopolising industries ranging from the restaurant trade, to pet stores. But flash forward to 2018 and small business is thriving, with over 110,000[1] start-ups having already been launched in 2018. And new research conducted by the team at Yell.com as part of our #lovelocal campaign can reveal why.

We’ve found that, thanks to social media, shopping habits are seemingly returning to days of old, with more people than ever making the effort to get out, explore their local area and find ‘hidden gems’. Our social research has revealed that posts relating to finding a new local business on the photo-sharing app Instagram, have grown at a rate of more than 50% year-on-year. The most popular terms being used to describe a discovery of a new local business on social channels all being positive, including terms such as ‘wonderful’, ‘cool’ and ‘love’. In fact, the use of the term ‘wonderful’ to describe a local business has increased 270% since 2016.

With this heightened rate of discovery, we’ve seen that local food and drink establishments are the most popular business types to be shared online, with shares of vegetarian food discoveries increasing by 408% from 2016-2017, Thai increasing by 217% and Spanish increasing by 200% in the same period. Locally owned vegan eateries closely followed, with a 157% increase.

One of the key findings from our research showed that the ‘Instagrammability’ of a service or product is now an overriding factor for many consumers. In fact, one in five people say how good a business looks on their social channels is more important than the cost. This has big implications for small businesses, many of which are now implementing their own social media strategy in an attempt to answer consumer demand. Our research has also found that nowhere is the ‘Instagrammability’ of a service or product more crucial for small business success than in London – with a third (34%) of Londoners admitting they care more about how something will appear on their Instagram feed, than the actual end product itself.

And it’s not only the social sphere that should continue to excite SMEs; the UK’s general online behaviour also throws up fascinating and unexpected insights which may prove highly useful to those looking to start a new business, expand a current business or diversify.

Creating a business based on a passion is one thing which we champion, but looking at supply and demand in a certain area can also throw up business ideas which could yield much more, and faster. Based on this thinking, we analysed the UK’s online search habits when seeking out a business or service in their local areas, honing in on key cities across the UK.

Did you know?

  • People in Brighton are 337% more likely to search for an ‘accountant’ than the rest of the UK
  • Liverpudlians are three times more likely to search for ‘suit tailoring’ than anywhere else
  • Glaswegians are twice as likely as residents of any other area to look for a ‘psychic’

It’s real data like this which can help small businesses to answer the age-old ‘supply and demand’ quota and inform new revenue streams.








These findings reinforce the idea that local businesses truly are the backbone of the UK, and the heightened social media conversations, interactions and search behaviour, lead us to believe that small businesses will become ever more important to local communities, with a new tech-savvy generation of consumers seeking out new discoveries and places that aren’t your high street stalwarts.

To further celebrate the resurgence of local businesses, the team at Yell.com have partnered with Yell.com ambassador and former BBC Dragons’ Den Dragon, Sarah Willingham as part of the #lovelocal campaign which sees Yell.com visit 20 cities in the UK to celebrate the nation’s local small businesses.

For more information on the campaign, as well as insights into the social and search research, please visit https://www.yell.com/justyell/insights/

[1] Number of UK start-ups launched in 2018 courtesy of: http://startupbritain.org/startup-tracker/