Small businesses are unsure about the impact of social networking on reaching customers, according to a recent survey from RatePoint, a leading provider of customer reviews, testimonials and online reputation management services.
The survey revealed that while 36 percent of small businesses agree their customers spend time on social networking sites, 27 percent are undecided and 20 percent disagreed that their customers were spending time on social networks.
Research from eMarketer(i) shows an estimated 57.5 percent of all US Internet users, or 127 million people, will use a social network at least once a month in 2010. By 2014, nearly two-thirds of Internet users will be on board.
In addition, Forrester(ii) reported, "While young people continue to march toward almost universal adoption of social applications, the most rapid growth occurred among consumers 35 and older."
"Social media use is no longer limited to one demographic, everyone is adopting," said Neal Creighton, CEO and co-founder of RatePoint. "While many small business owners are uncertain, big brands are investing heavily in social media. Social media can be a great equalizer for small businesses to compete alongside larger brands and SMBs are missing out if they are not involved."
Small businesses also are conflicted about the use of social media for businesses, according to RatePoint's survey:
My customers want to hear from me on social networks: 25 percent agree, 36 percent disagree, 20 percent undecided
Social media is a quick way to connect with prospective customers: 35 percent agree, 28 percent disagree, 22 percent undecided
Small businesses who are proactively using social networking to reach customers are finding a strong return. Of the SMBs who indicated they will be using social media as the main tactic to drive new customers to their business in the next 12 months, 70 percent said they do so because social media is the least expensive option.
"SMBs often think managing social media is time and resource-intensive, but many SMBs have found tools to help them make the process more efficient and effective," Creighton said. "SMBs need to talk to customers via social media so they can find how to meet customer needs, build relationships and make sales."