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What are the SME social media trends to watch in 2023?

Published on 23/02/2023 by David Jani

Social media monitoring is an ever-changing field, and nothing stays the same for very long. We observed in our previous report that small-to-midsize enterprises (SMEs) still value established platforms and dedicate time and resources to producing regular content, but where do they aim to find the extra return on investment (ROI) from these channels in 2023?

SMEs consider social media trends whilst performing maintenance on coloured app tiles

In our first look into social media habits for small-to-midsize enterprises (SMEs), we discovered companies often have an established, long-term presence on social platforms, highly value it for their success, and dedicate time and resources to its content management. What other essential social media trends do small businesses need to know in 2023?

We put questions about current social media trends in budgeting, optimisation, software use, and adoption of new platforms to our sample of 252 UK SME owners and managers to assess the benefits of social media for business. From this data, we aimed to learn more about what companies need to know to stay agile online in the year ahead.

For our full methodology, scroll to the bottom of the page.

50% say they will increase social media spending this year

2022 was a financially challenging year for businesses recovering from the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rises in electricity prices. With fears of a recession in 2023, many companies across the United Kingdom will likely be tightening their belts and reducing their costs. 

Does this, therefore, translate into lower social media spending in 2023? 

Despite the tough economic outlook for the year ahead, we found that many of the SME leaders we spoke to intended to increase their spending on social media. 50% of our sample said they would raise their spending, 48% said they’d maintain current costs, and only 2% planned a reduction.

Graph displaying SME plans for 2023 social media budget

This broadly correlates with the results of our previous report; social media’s return on investment is highly regarded, as demonstrated by 94% of our sample agreeing it had a ‘positive impact’ on their business success.

The vote of confidence represented by increased spending by half of our sample demonstrates that the social media market is valuable for business growth. Yet, we wanted to learn more about the extent of that spending.

How much more are SMEs planning to spend and why?

We duly asked our sample of those planning an increase in their social media budget for more details on what the rises entailed.

We discovered that the increases in social media spending reported by company leaders often exceeded 5% of their previous budget, as shown in the following graph.

 Graph displaying percentage increase on social media spending SMEs are planning to make

Tips for SMEs

Companies can use budgeting software to get a better picture of their spending with tools that allow users to monitor and analyse data collected from departments across the entire business.

We also investigated the reasons for these proposed increases in their budgets. When we asked our sample of participants who reported an increase in social media spending, they said that the increased budget was due to:

  • Creating content: 60%
  • Paid advertising: 54%
  • Influencers: 37%
  • Social media software: 36%
  • New hires to work on social media: 31% 

How much do companies spend on social media in total?

Another important question we put to our sample was the scale of social media spending in relation to their total marketing budget. According to the best estimate of our participants, this was allocated in the following proportions:

Graph showing the percentage of company marketing budget spent on social media

We could observe from this that small companies in the UK with a presence on social networks allocate a significant proportion of spending to social media expenses. Whilst the biggest group (29%) estimated spending less than 10% of their marketing budget, 71% spent more than 10% of it.

34% of SME leaders want to try a new social network

We’ve already seen from the findings thus far that half of the companies we surveyed are looking to expand their social media spending. Much of this (60%) is going towards creating new content.

However, an expansion in resources also gives businesses the flexibility to expand their online presence into new social media channels. When we asked our participants if they were considering using a new social platform they didn’t currently use, 34% said yes.

We then explored the additional social networks being weighed up by this group. By and large, the pattern was mixed, but the top three choices selected by our sample were TikTok (27%), Snapchat (24%), and YouTube (21%).  

 Graph of social networks companies are considering using

The choice to expand onto the top three social media platforms selected in this question fits with our previous finding that YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat were among the least likely to already be used by British SMEs. 

YouTube and TikTok were only used by 43% and 38%, respectively, whilst just 14% of our sample said they currently used Snapchat. As a result, this makes it much more likely that these three choices would represent the logical options for expansion for companies, especially given their popularity with younger Gen Z users. 

Also, in the case of TikTok, launched in 2016 —much later than many of its competitors, its lack of longevity, youthful audience, and subsequent growth to reportedly become the third largest social network in the world is likely to make it an enticing newer social media platform to adopt.

47% of British SMEs actively optimise their social channels  

Social media optimisation (SMO)  is the process by which businesses and individuals create content that is likely to trend or be shared on social platforms. Companies must carefully monitor their analytics and study online trends to yield the best results possible.

Most (90%) of the participants we surveyed were aware of the concept either by name, concept, or both. Surprisingly, 10% didn’t know the concept or the name at all, which seems a high number considering how long social media has been a digital marketing practice. 

However, when we asked the sample whether they actively participated in the practice, we found that just under half (47%) did. 

Graph showing the prevalence of social media optimisation for SMEs

Those already using SMO methods to enhance their social media presence reported positive sentiment for the practices overall. 84% of this group agreed with the statement, ‘social media optimisation is essential to our social media strategy’. Additionally, 95% of those already practising social media optimisation agreed that they had ‘seen success’ by optimising their content and account on social media.  

Social networks use a mix of different algorithms to display posted content to users, and 92% of those who optimise their content in our sample agreed that they ‘regularly research and implement algorithmic best practices’. However, there’s more we can learn about how they make those practices easier to implement. 

63% of SMEs that optimise their social media content use relevant software 

As already observed by our findings, SMO is a widely practised method of getting good ROI on social networks. However, managing networks requires detailed processes and a decent level of analysis.

Social media monitoring, marketing, and management software offer businesses the tools to help effectively track, organise, and post their published content. 

Subsequently, we further investigated the nature of how SMEs optimise their social media channels by asking additional questions about their processes. We did this by querying the use of social media management software for optimisation purposes.

To do this, we examined the proportion of companies that use software for social media optimisation purposes.

Graph showing proportion of SMEs that use social media software

As seen from the data, most (63%) companies that optimise their social media use software for these purposes. However, when we put the question of social media software use to the entire survey sample of SME leaders, we observed a slightly lower prevalence.

In this case, 46% of the group said they already used social media software tools in their company. 36% said they were not yet but were planning to use it in the future, and 18% didn’t use it and had no interest in starting.

Despite the fact there was a lower proportion of companies already using software for social media amongst our entire sample, those that were interested in starting to use it planned to implement it soon. When we asked the participants who wished to use social media software in the future when they intended to roll it out, 68% said they planned to start implementing it this year (2023).  

There are plenty of good reasons to consider using social media software, according to our sample. We asked our participants that used social media software to rate the importance of it to their social media strategy between 1 (not important at all) and 5 (extremely important). We found that 72% in total rated these tools as important overall. 

What do small businesses want social media software for?

With over a third of our sample of SME leaders looking to introduce social media tools into their processes in the near future, what are the benefits that companies think social media marketing software will bring?

We asked the 36% who planned to implement a social media software tool to explain the functions they would use the system for. Overall, we saw there were a few key reasons that appealed to potential users.

Graph of functions companies seek from social media software

How popular are social media monitoring functions?

The most popular reason to adopt social media software amongst non-users was social media monitoring, which was selected by half of this group. Social media engagement and social media analytics also featured highly as potential benefits.

Did you know?

The UK’s proposed new online safety bill could increase scrutiny on what can be posted online and stipulate when harmful content must be removed. Therefore, monitoring the content posted and its online responses is increasingly important for social media stakeholders.

Social media monitoring tools can help businesses keep track of what’s happening on their managed profiles. They can also quickly flag and remove any potentially harmful content that may be shared by followers. 

However, it was interesting to contrast these findings with the most popular functions selected by those already using the software. In this case, we found that a similar number of current users (53%) said they used social media software for monitoring, although it was only the second most popular in this group. 

Additionally to this, we discovered that 49% of the managers and SME leaders we asked used user-generated content in their posts. This is likely to require more effort dedicated to moderation than other social media endeavours, which could explain why we observed a significant proportion seeking tools for monitoring.

27% of our SME sample use influencers on social media

Influencer marketing has become a popular tactic to boost engagement in the social media age. 

However, despite influencers generating value for many businesses they’ve partnered with, the practice has prompted some backlash recently with regard to how many online influencers portray unrealistic lavish lifestyles. Does this mean businesses are also losing faith in influencer marketing on social media?   

We found that this wasn’t quite the case.

Graphic explaining how UK SMEs use social media influencer campaigns

We discovered that 27% of our sample used influencer marketing campaigns as part of their social media strategy. From this group of participants, 81% ranked the ROI of influencer marketing as satisfactory overall.

This appears to work against the idea that influencer marketing is compromised reputationally. Companies still see positive results from working with social media influencers, although users of this strategy were in the minority of our sample. This suggests influencer marketing still has the potential when used for the right kind of product/brand. 

Tips for SMEs

Marketers who work with influencers to promote their brand or products must take care to ensure that social media ads comply with the law. 

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) sets rules that all social influencer advertising campaigns must be clearly labelled as advertising and must explicitly state that the content is being published on your behalf. 

More information about how this must be done can be found in the joint Advertising Standard’s Authority (ASA) / CMA guidelines.

Half of our sample uses social listening

Social listening is a technique organisations use to examine online discourse and trending topics. For marketing purposes, this is done by collecting data from social media sites to understand elements such as audience sentiment and interests.

To get a better idea of when, how, and why companies used social listening, we asked our SME participants whether they had tried it as a business practice. 

We found 50% of our sample already used social listening. Another 35% were interested in using it in the future. In all, this seemed a significant vote of confidence in the practice as a whole.

There are many benefits of using social listening, but we wanted to narrow down the most important advantages. We, therefore, asked the sample of participants whose companies used social listening techniques to identify the most popular benefits for SMEs. 

Graph of benefits SMEs say social listening offers

Much of what we observed showed that companies are most interested in social listening to get a better picture of their customers and improve their interaction with them. They also used it for purposes such as feedback and understanding the big trends in their industry. 

We also looked a little further at how companies obtained their data from social listening. Most of the participants already doing it (51%) used their own in-house manual research methods, whilst the rest (49%) used a software tool to collect it. 

It seems from these findings that social listening is a well-established practice that many are already seeing benefits from. It also looks likely this is set to grow further in 2023, given the interest we saw from those not already using it.

Making social media count in 2023

As we’ve seen from our data, social media can be a significant ally in helping small and midsize enterprises reach their marketing potential. In this report, we discovered the following findings and trends:

  • 50% say they will raise their social media spending in 2023
  • A third of the businesses we surveyed wanted to expand onto a new social network
  • 47% optimise their content to achieve better results, 63% of this group use software to achieve the improved performance
  • 27% use influencer marketing and 81% of this group report satisfactory ROI
  • Half our sample practices social listening, mostly for better audience understanding

It seems that despite some concerns about best practices and their impact, social media will still play a key role in helping businesses achieve better brand recognition and understand their audience better in 2023. The observed trends, underlined by many favouring strategic plans and the use of software tools to focus resources properly for better ROI, suggested that companies saw positive results from the practice and hoped to expand it over the coming years.  

Looking for social media management software? Check out our catalogue. 


The data for GetApp’s SMEs and Social Media Survey was collected in January 2023 and comprises answers from 252 respondents. We selected our survey sample based on the following criteria:

  • UK residents
  • SME owners, executive managers, senior managers, or managers
  • Working on the board of directors, marketing, or administration departments in companies currently present on social media
  • Responsible or frequently involved in the design or implementation of the marketing strategies

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

David is a Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate. He loves traveling, cooking and F1.

David is a Content Analyst for the UK, providing key insights into tech, software and business trends for SMEs. Cardiff University graduate. He loves traveling, cooking and F1.