At least that’s what a recent Manta survey on small business online behavior found.
The survey’s findings may be helpful in planning your online networking strategies.
- 90 percent of small businesses network online, with one in five (21 percent) saying it is more important than networking in-person.
- 42 percent have a presence on Facebook and find it valuable.
- 42 percent say they’ve gained a quarter of their customers through online or social media efforts.
- 35 percent say that the most valuable benefit on being online is being found by new customers.
Here’s what I like and don’t like about online networking and social media activities.
On the plus side:
- Cost is minimal. Getting on Facebook is free. Getting on Twitter is free. The cost of website development for your company can also be modest, depending on how elaborate you need your site to be (it can also be very costly for a complex site).
- Getting started is easy. There is an easy learning curve for mastering social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. I always feel that if I, a non-tech person from an older generation, can do it, anyone can!
- The reach is far and wide. Going online to connect with prospects and customers allows you to expand your horizons, including abroad (where more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers are found).
Negative aspects include:
- Hour eater — servicing online presences — a company website, Facebook, and Twitter — takes time away from doing other business activities. Owners may want or need to find others (in house or outsourced) to handle online activities.
- Less personal — while there’s much to be gained from connecting online, there is something that’s lost: the customer’s body language.
Whatever you decide to do about online networking, create a plan of attack. Include in this plan an assessment of your efforts—when you’ll do it and what measurements you’ll employ. For instance, review weekly or monthly, how many customers you’ve gained and what it’s cost you to do so.
Also, make sure you consider security issues, including password protection. Further, be sure to integrate your networking with customer relations management (CRM). Check out a helpful article from All Things CRM.
Barbara Weltman is an attorney, author (with such titles as J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business), and trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® at www.barbaraweltman.com, and host of Build Your Business radio. Follow her on Twitter: @BarbaraWeltman.