Many small businesses plan to use digital and social media tools in the coming year, as well as tablets and smartphones.
Small businesses are
increasing their use of the Internet and social media platforms to connect with
customers and grow their businesses, according to a recent survey by Citibank.
The study found that 65 percent of the 749 small-business owners surveyed
across the United States cited increased marketing activities as a key step in
growing their businesses. The survey also found that smartphones ranked as the
best technological solution for small businesses, with nearly half (48 percent)
currently using smartphones like the iPhone or Android-powered devices.
While the large majority (70
percent) of respondents used their company Website as a marketing channel, 41
percent said they have used social media channels, such as LinkedIn, Facebook
and Twitter, in the last year. Sixty-two percent haven't used email for
marketing purposesa figure that remains the same from when Citibank first
surveyed small-business leaders about social media and online marketing in
As small-business owners are
moving online, and relying more heavily on their company Websites, online
channels represent an emerging opportunity to help grow their businesses. In
fact, many small businesses plan to use digital and social media tools in the
coming year. According to the survey, 60 percent plan to increase activity on
their Websites for marketing purposes, 40 percent intend to use social
networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for marketing or
expanding their businesses, up 10 points from 2010, and 38 percent plan to
leverage email marketing tactics to drive awareness and sales of products and
owners have been slower to adopt online marketing channels, they are clearly
warming up to using these tools to target customers," said Maria Veltre,
managing director of small-business marketing and customer experience at Citi. "They are seeing that social media platforms can be an efficient and cost-effective
means to increase awareness of their business, engage with customers and,
ultimately, to drive growth."
The number of small
businesses selling goods and services online or via email has risen from 16
percent to 24 percent since 2010. The use of social media tools, such as
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, rose 6 percentage points during that same time
frame. The survey also revealed that nearly three-quarters of small-business
owners who have a Website find it very or somewhat effective in generating more
business for their company. More than one-third (34 percent) said that they plan
to use smartphones in the future. In addition, tablet computers like Apples
iPad have penetrated one-quarter of small businesses, and another 23 percent
said they planned to use them more or add one in 2012.
Small-business owners under
the age of 45 were more likely to use digital and social media to address their
marketing needs. In the past 12 months, 54 percent of small-business
executives under the age of 45 used social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter
or LinkedIn, compared with only 36 percent of their peers aged 45 and over. Younger
small-business owners were also more likely to use a company Website (72
percent, versus 68 percent of older respondents) and search engine optimization
(44 percent, versus 33 percent).
"Today, the Web is the
first place consumers go for information on products and services," said
Tracey Weber, managing director of Internet and mobile for North America
consumer banking at Citi. "The perception is that these channels are
expensive and time-consuming, but the reality is there are simple ways to reach
current and prospective customers online. Small businesses have a great
opportunity to leverage online tools and social media to market their
businesses and to help drive growth."
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.