Entrepreneurs Under 40 Rely Heavily on Internet, Social Networks: Report

The study found 43 percent of entrepreneurs under 40 believe social networking sites are valuable resources for growth.

According to the study released by The Business Group, half a million small and midsize business executives are under the age of 40 in the United States. Top of mind for these young business owners are the future prospects for their companies and how to best use technology for business and personal use. Those entrepreneurs and SMB executives under 40 have been exposed to technology throughout their entire lives and use an array of technology products and services such as WiFi, VOIP (voice over IP), cloud computing and apps, to a greater extent than their 40-plus peers.

The findings of the study illustrate how young business owners are leveraging new technology, social media and the Internet to increase productivity and stay connected to their businesses and critical business information. The study found 43 percent of entrepreneurs under 40 believe social networking sites are valuable resources for business growth, while only 28 percent over 40 echo the same sentiment. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of young entrepreneurs agree that technology has greatly increased business productivity, and 83 percent of young entrepreneurs agree that the Internet is one of the most valuable business tools.

The study, conducted from November 2010 to January 2011 and culled from interviews with 2,223 SMB executives with 1-499 employees, also found that those under 40 have adopted social networks in both their personal and business lives, with 88 percent currently using social networking sites, and 70 percent using a social network as part of their business marketing programs, compared to 68 percent and 47 percent, respectively, among executives over 40. Additionally, young entrepreneurs prefer Facebook and LinkedIn over Twitter for both business and personal use.

When it comes to the Internet, 79 percent of SMB executives under 40 consider themselves expert Internet users, compared to only 41 percent of those 40 and older. They're using the Internet for a variety of business activities including buying business products or services (70 percent), keeping in touch with colleagues and friends (70 percent) and collecting information about competitors (50 percent), among others. Additionally, 62 percent turned to the Internet for education and training, compared to 48 percent of SMB executives over 40.

According to the study, SMB leaders under 40 also understand and appreciate the benefits of wireless technology with the majority (68 percent) believing that it is critical to be able to access business information outside of the office, and 63 percent staying connected to their businesses via computers, smartphones or iPads for at least eight hours a day.

"Young entrepreneurs have been exposed to social networks for quite some time - roughly eight years or more - and it has become second nature for them to use these platforms to connect with colleagues and customers," said Godfrey Phillips, vice president for research at The Business Journals. "The Internet is their central resource for traditional applications, and they turn to alternative media like YouTube, Foursquare and Twitter to connect with and attract new prospects."