Are you using social media in your business? Then you’re in good company—a recent recent survey by online small business community Manta found a whopping 90 percent of small business owners use social media to network with other business owners, customers and prospects.
Nearly three-fourths of small business owners surveyed say social networking is as valuable, if not more so, than in-person networking. The biggest benefit of social networking is gaining prospective customers; 78 percent of respondents say they gained at least a quarter of their new customers through online or social media channels this year.
What online networking venues give small business the best results? It’s not social media: That honor goes to company websites. Nearly one-fourth of small business owners say their company website drives the most new business.
Next came Facebook, which drives the most new business for 19 percent of respondents. On the flip side, 30 percent of respondents say they have a presence on the social media site but don’t find it valuable; 28 percent don’t have a presence there at all.
LinkedIn was third on the list; social networking there drove the most new business for 12 percent of small businesses. And Google+ came in fourth, with this social networking site cited by 10 percent of respondents. Meanwhile, small business owners are still struggling to figure out the business value of social networking site Pinterest, cited as a sales driver by less than 1 percent of respondents.
Clearly, there are lots of ways to network online. What lessons can you draw from this study?
- Find what works for you. Facebook may be the dominant player, but it’s not right for every business. Try multiple social sites until you find the one that gives you the best results.
- Launch a business website. It’s still the biggest sales driver, despite the growth of social media. Starting a website is simpler and more affordable than ever, and creates a “home” to which where all your online and social media marketing efforts can lead.
- Networking matters. Whether you’re trying to meet new customers, find potential partners or vendors, or just learn more about your industry, you can’t get results if you don’t get out there—online or off.