Small Businesses Move to Bolster Their Online Brand

Nearly a third (35 percent) of small businesses surveyed ranked growing an online presence as their top priority in 2015, according a Rocket Lawyer survey.

Six out of 10 small businesses (61 percent) experienced growth in 2014, and an impressive 80 percent are optimistic that their businesses will continue to grow this year, according to a survey of nearly 500 U.S. small business owners conducted by Rocket Lawyer, an online legal services company.

The survey indicated a strong online brand is the gateway to business success, with 29 percent of small business owners indicating this factor as their biggest concern.

"The main piece of advice we provide our small business customers when engaging in social media is to put together guidelines in advance," Charley Moore, CEO and founder of Rocket Lawyer, told eWEEK. "They can do this in their employee handbook or in a separate social media policy. This way, all employees will understand the proper behavior when engaging with followers before they interact with the company’s social channels."

Moore explained a common misstep with small companies is that the social platforms are often left to very junior employees, many of whom may not completely understand how to engage on a professional level with followers.

Other key survey results indicate small businesses are keen to embrace mobile apps, including mobile payments.

Sixty percent of small businesses surveyed said they would consider adopting mobile payments in 2015 as a way to offer their customers a more seamless and simple payment experience. Already, small companies are using a growing variety of mobile apps, including ridesharing (36 percent) and navigation apps (23 percent).

Small businesses run by Millenials are the most willing to consider adopting mobile payments (71 percent), as they believe it will streamline the payment process, and provide new opportunities to compete in an expanding market (51 percent).

"When deciding whether to adopt a mobile payment strategy, it’s important for an SMB to determine if it makes sense for their business by considering the benefits and risks," Moore said. "For example, will it give them more of a competitive edge? Will it encourage one-time customers to become recurring customers due to its ease of use?"

Nearly a third (35 percent) of small businesses surveyed ranked growing an online presence as their top priority in 2015. Most new hiring is for marketing (27 percent) and sales (37 percent) positions.

Small business owners also revealed that the biggest legal issue they experienced this past year was contract negotiations (27 percent), an area that will continue to grow in significance as SMBs increasingly turn to the "solopreneur" contract and part- time employee hiring pool.

Payment collections (19 percent) and employment issues (11 percent) were additional high ranking legal issues for SMBs in the second half of 2014.