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Survey: Small biz unsure of impact of social networking

Small businesses are unsure about the impact of social networking on reaching customers, according to a recent survey from RatePoint, a provider of customer reviews, testimonials, and online reputation management services.

The survey revealed that while 36% of small businesses agree their customers spend time on social networking sites, 27% are undecided, and 20% disagreed that their customers were spending time on social networks.

Research from eMarketer shows an estimated 57.5% of all US Internet users, or 127 million people, will use a social network at least once a month in 2010. By 2014, nearly two-thirds of Internet users will be on board.

In addition, Forrester reported, “While young people continue to march toward almost universal adoption of social applications, the most rapid growth occurred among consumers 35 and older.”

“Social media use is no longer limited to one demographic, everyone is adopting,” said Neal Creighton, CEO and co-founder of RatePoint. “While many small business owners are uncertain, big brands are investing heavily in social media. Social media can be a great equalizer for small businesses to compete alongside larger brands and SMBs are missing out if they are not involved.”

Small businesses also are conflicted about the use of social media for businesses, according to RatePoint’s survey:

  • My customers want to hear from me on social networks: 25% agree, 36% disagree, 20% undecided.
  • Social media is a quick way to connect with prospective customers: 35% agree, 28% disagree, 22% undecided.

Small businesses that are proactively using social networking to reach customers are finding a strong return. Of the SMBs who indicated they will be using social media as the main tactic to drive new customers to their business in the next 12 months, 70% said they do so because social media is the least expensive option.

“SMBs often think managing social media is time and resource-intensive, but many SMBs have found tools to help them make the process more efficient and effective,” Creighton said. “SMBs need to talk to customers via social media so they can find how to meet customer needs, build relationships and make sales.”

To assist small businesses in beginning a social media presence, RatePoint has released a new eBook, “A Social Media Guide for the Skeptical Small-Business Owner.”

RatePoint surveyed more than 150 small businesses, the vast majority five employees and under, in August 2010 about opinions on topics such as social media and online reviews.


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