Purpose: During the COVID-19 crisis, diversified attitudes and behaviors of structural equation modeling (SME) retailers were observed in using social media marketing that could have helped mitigate the adverse effects of this crisis on businesses. This paper aims to present a thorough investigation of these perceptions and limited acceptance of social media marketing among SME retailers in a developing country during a crisis. Design/methodology/approach: The investigation was designed using a mixed-method design. A qualitative investigation, as the first part, explored SME retailers’ perceptions of the use of social media marketing when they were faced with mandatory lockdown that stifled their business activity. The insights from qualitative study and literature helped devise the second part of the study, a quantitative study using the technology acceptance model (TAM). Analysis of responses from a sample of SME retailers (n = 149) was done using SEM in this study. Findings: In the qualitative study, SME retailers were found to have a varying outlook toward social media marketing. Some ventured into social media marketing while others were impeded by their limited understanding. The second (quantitative) study showed the general applicability of TAM such that perceived ease of use through perceived usefulness influenced SME retailers’ attitudes toward the usage of social media marketing during the COVID-19 crisis. An important finding in both studies was that business owners’ education level influenced their perceptions of social media marketing. Research limitations/implications: The investigation, albeit a comprehensive one, was conducted in a particular market and for SME retailers. This opens avenues for conducting similar studies in other segments of entrepreneurs to generate insights based on comparative analysis across segments and scenarios. Originality/value: Limited or no marketing in the physical marketplace amid lockdown meant almost an existential crisis for entrepreneurs, especially SME retailers, in developing countries during the COVID-19 crisis. While technology acceptance by SME retailers has been discussed in the literature, there are limited discourses on technology acceptance among entrepreneurs and SME retailers during a crisis. These findings from the COVID-19 crisis explicate the possibilities and limitations of technology usage as a means to mitigate challenges faced by entrepreneurs during a crisis.