Social Media, Mobile Technology Use Grows Among SMBs: Report

Small business owners are optimistic about growth, using social media sites and mobile devices to boost productivity.

Small business owners are adopting the use of social media sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter alongside mobile technology to give their businesses a boost, according to an online survey of 1,067 small to medium-size business (SMB) owners by j2 Global, a provider of cloud services. The survey also found there is a high level of optimism among SMB owners, with about three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents optimistic about their company's growth for the remainder of 2012.

The j2 Global Small Business Survey found 38 percent of users currently leverage five or more mobile apps to run their business and are embracing mobile devices to improve productivity, particularly among restaurants and other organizations in the food service industry. Popular business uses of Apple€™s iPad tablet include email (with 76 percent, the most often reported use), followed by Web browsing, document management, product demonstrations and sales, phone and video communications, and online fax.

Social media is also firmly entrenched in the business strategies of midmarket companies, led by Facebook, which was cited by 37 percent of respondents as the most important social networking site for their business. Overall, more than one in three businesses surveyed (39 percent) said a quarter of their marketing strategy now focuses on social media, while 26 percent say it is half or more of their marketing strategy.

LinkedIn (24 percent) and Google+ (18 percent) followed Facebook as the most popular social media sites.

The survey also found a wide variation in social media usage based on industry: YouTube is the top choice of technology firms, while e-commerce businesses relied most on microblogging site Twitter. Consulting professionals prefer LinkedIn, Facebook is the dish of the day for restaurants, and medical professionals said they trust in Google+.

Small business optimism was highest among Millennials (32 years old and younger), 85 percent of which are bullish on growth prospects for the rest of the year. However, each subsequent age group becomes less optimistic, with 81 percent of Generation X (ages 33-47), 71 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 48-66) and 64 percent of Seniors (over 67 years old) expecting growth for their business this year. Based on industry, real estate, advertising and financial services professionals showed the most optimism regarding growth in 2012.

"Small businesses have always been a driver of economic growth. Seeing their continued optimism, as well as their adoption of mobile technologies and social media, is a promising sign," Mike Pugh, vice president of marketing at j2 Global, said in a media statement. "SMBs keep pushing forward, finding new, more efficient ways of doing business in the cloud and on the move."