Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger competitors particularly in media.   And marketing dollars are at an even greater premium.  Then, why are more than three-quarters of small businesses not taking advantage of social media – the exploding frontier of consumer engagement AND relatively cost free?

Small-business owners are not making the trek to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but are slowly dipping their toes into Internet waters, according to a new Citibank/GfK Roper survey.

The study found 76 percent of small-business owners polled were not using social media or finding it helpful in generating business leads during the last year, and 86 percent said the did not use such sites to get advice or information.

“Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Many businesses have already recognized their best manner of review, referral and activating their zealots is through social media platforms.   Because business owners do not have time to engage in these sites does not mean their best customers and prospects are not doing so.   Small businesses need to rethink their attitude to this new media or run the risk of becoming less competitive from a marketing standpoint.