A recent survey by leading email and social media marketing company, iContact, revealed small business owners do not universally trust social media. One out of every four small business owners surveyed hate social media – from Facebook and Twitter, to LinkedIn and Groupon. Negative sentiments range in vitriol, from "it seems like an enormous time commitment" to "it has nothing to do with the merit of the business, but who can manipulate the system."

With yesterday's release of iContact's social media marketing product, the company has put out a call to small business owners nationwide to get to the bottom of why the Love/Hate chasm exists among its customers – and has put $25,000 on the line for businesses willing to share what's behind their social emotions.

"It's not surprising that there are a few staunch holdouts, but the social revolution is here, and three-fourths of our respondents find tremendous value in it," says iContact CEO Ryan Allis. "We've seen email marketing make an incredible impact on our customers' businesses, and social media is growing so quickly it may soon eclipse email audiences, giving small businesses the power to sell and market their services in new, affordable, and viral ways. We've helped small businesses grow with email marketing tools and now want to help them manage their social media communications. We're going to show them how to do it, as easily and effectively as possible."

Since 2003, iContact has been a partner to small businesses, reaching more than one million users to date. Having just launched its first-ever social media marketing product, the company is keen to shine a light on how small business owners are really using social media. Beyond the overall sentiment, survey findings dove deeper to see which of the leading social channels are most feared and favored by small business. Facebook is the darling, receiving 76 percent love votes, while Groupon is hated by 70 percent of the small business customers surveyed. 

Facebook feels the love: While 76 percent of respondents favor Facebook, there are still a few haters. For example, only a third of small business owners in finance and insurance are fond of the social network. The biggest Facebook fans are non-profits (87 percent) and education (82 percent).
Haters hate on Groupon: At the other end of the spectrum, 70 percent of small businesses hate Groupon. The biggest haters? Financial services/investors, at nearly 80 percent. Considering the love consumers have for $10 mani/pedis, it may not surprise anyone that Groupon had less hate from professional services, like spas and salons (45 percent).
Tepid about Twitter: Small business owners were split on Twitter, with 54 percent loving it and 46 percent hating it. Digging deeper, the largest group to "hate" Twitter were businesses with fewer than 25 employees; where as the largest group to "love" the 140-character service were companies reporting more than $100 million in revenue.
Gray area with Google +: The new Google service has left small business owners undecided. Forty-eight percent love it while 52 percent are not convinced.
LinkedIn is likeable: Sixty-three percent of respondents were fans of the professional networking site. The most LinkedIn love came from businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The professional services sector harbored the biggest fan base, with a whopping 82 percent declaring their love for LinkedIn.

"Small business owners are a great barometer for these social products and platforms, because when something helps them hire, sell, or otherwise proves valuable, they're passionate proponents," continued Allis. "But when they are strapped for money and time, they're quick to say if something is not worth the investment of either."

To uncover small business sentiment concerning social media, iContact is launching "Social Media: Love It or Hate It," a campaign that invites small business owners to submit videos describing their love or hate of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, and Groupon. Entries must be received by Dec. 5, 2011 for a chance to win part of $25,000 awarded to the winners. An iContact panel of judges will select five finalists each in the love or hate camps for voting among the iContact community.

For more information on the survey and details about the "Social Media: Love It or Hate It" video contest, please visit social.icontact.com.