RealTime IT News

Why Small Business Digs Social Networks

Small businesses don't always have time to futz with the latest technology, but a new survey indicates a good many of them in the U.S. have jumped aggressively on the social network bandwagon.

About 45 percent of 2,000 U.S. small businesses surveyed last month said they have a presence or profiles on Facebook and Twitter to promote their businesses.

The online survey by Internet2Go, an Opus Research advisory service, and MerchantCircle, shows a growing segment of small business owners who aggressively use social media to promote their businesses. MerchantCircle bills itself as the largest social network for small businesses, and said more than 925,000 merchants on the MerchantCircle network upload pictures, blog, create coupons and newsletters, and connect with other merchants.

One caveat worth noting about the results is that the survey targeted the most frequent content-publishers among MerchantCircle's small business members. Also, most of the respondents were truly small businesses: 80 percent have four or fewer employees.

"We've known anecdotally that small businesses are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but these numbers are surprising," Greg Sterling, senior analyst at Internet2Go, said in a statement. "The conventional wisdom is that SMBs are unsophisticated but they're adopting social media tools en masse it appears, because there are fewer barriers to entry than other forms of online marketing."

Biggest complaints

In response to a survey question about their "biggest complaint" regarding online marketing, the top two responses were that it is "too costly" (26 percent) and "there's not enough time to do it well and still run a business" (15.9 percent).

Seventy-five percent said they monitor online reviews of their business, most commonly by visiting specific review Web sites (47 percent) and by searching on their business name (44 percent).

"We believe the behavior exhibited by these small business owners is a precursor of things to come -- that small business owners will increasingly forgo expensive advertising options and embrace publishing their unique content across various social media outlets," said Darren Waddell, vice president of marketing at MerchantCircle.