Small business owners are putting an increased emphasis on establishing and promoting themselves online to network and increase their customer base, according to a survey by Manta, an online site for small businesses.
Ninety percent of 614 small business owners surveyed said they dedicate time to networking online and 74 percent find networking online just as, if not more, valuable than networking in person, the survey results show.
Nearly 50 percent of small business owners said the most valuable benefit of networking online is gaining and targeting prospective customers. And, 78 percent said they gained at least a quarter of their new customers through online or social media channels this year.
“Small businesses understand they need to go where their audience is,” said Pamela Springer, Manta CEO. “Participating, networking and being found online is extremely important today in growing their business, so it’s not surprising that they are embracing the channel.”
Ninety-seven percent of consumers use the Internet to research products or services in their local area, Springer said. Those searches regularly include company name, product/service, or business owner.
It is critical small businesses build awareness of themselves and their company online, she said.
Some small business owners said they still struggle to navigate and use the Internet successfully. Fifty-eight percent of small businesses said they have a tough time finding value in using Facebook to promote their business or don’t have a web page.
Pinterest and Groupon, channels considered to be popular with consumers, turned out to be the most unfruitful online channels for small businesses, receiving a 1 percent and less than 1 percent response, respectively.
On the flip side, nearly 25 percent of small businesses surveyed say their company website drive the most business for them.