Facebook, Mobile Apps Increasingly Important to Businesses: ATandT Report

Cloud computing, mobile applications and social-networking sites are giving small businesses a boost, an AT&T survey found.

Small businesses rely increasingly on mobile applications, Facebook pages for their companies, and employees working remotely via wireless technologies, according to the AT&T Small Business Technology Poll.

The national survey of small businesses with two to 50 employees revealed that nearly three-fourths (72 percent) indicate they use mobile applications in their business, with roughly four in ten (38 percent) reporting they could not survive-or it would be a major challenge to survive-without mobile applications.

Considering there are more than 500 million active Facebook users, this year's survey found a significant increase in small businesses that have adopted this social-media channel as a business tool, with 41 percent reporting they have a Facebook page for their business. Use is up from 27 percent in 2010, representing a 52 percent jump in just one year. Additionally, of the businesses reporting that they use social media, 41 percent responded that they've seen measurable success-in terms of better communications and relationships with new and/or existing customers-with these channels.

The AT&T survey also found that 33 percent of small businesses indicated that they are using cloud-based or software as a service solutions, a solid adoption rate for these nascent services. But cloud solutions are not nearly as critical to small businesses just yet as other technologies, with less than one in five (17 percent) saying they could not survive-or it would be a major challenge to survive-without these technologies.

Moreover, despite recent headlines and media campaigns, 32 percent of small businesses surveyed acknowledged they do not know what is meant by cloud-based or software as a service solutions.

Mobile applications are becoming crucial for small businesses, with nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of small businesses surveyed indicating they use mobile applications for their business; the driving force behind this widespread adoption is time savings, increased productivity and reduction of costs. Moreover, GPS/navigation and mapping mobile applications are by far the most popular, with 49 percent reporting they use them for their small business.

In addition, 40 percent of small businesses report that all their employees use wireless devices or wireless technologies to work away from the office. This is up from 24 percent in 2008, and is expected to grow to 50 percent by 2012. In addition, the survey found 96 percent of small businesses use wireless technologies. In fact, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of small businesses surveyed said they could not survive-or it would be a major challenge to survive-without wireless technology.

The survey also picked up regional variations for these technologies: Based on responses to four factors-the perceived importance of wireless, the use of wireless technology, the use of mobile applications and the percentage of employees using wireless to work away from the office-a Wireless Quotient, or "WiQ," was calculated for each of the 12 markets surveyed. Each component was weighted in the rankings. For example, use of wireless technology was viewed as more important than the perceived importance of that technology. Last year, Atlanta and Oklahoma topped the rankings for highest WiQ, but this year, Miami and Atlanta led the pack.