Are You Working Your Online Network?
Networking has always been crucial to small business success, but the rise of social media has made it easier for small business owners to network without ever leaving the office.
A new survey by small business community Manta found the vast majority (90 percent) of small business owners spend at least some time networking online.
Nearly three-fourths of small business owners surveyed say networking online is as valuable, if not more so, than in-person networking. The biggest benefit 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.
Which online networking venues give small business the best results? That honor goes to company websites. Nearly one-fourth of small business owners say their company websites drive the most new business.
Next comes Facebook, which drives the most new business for 19 percent of business owners. On the flip side, 30 percent say they have a presence on the social media site but don’t find it valuable, and 28 percent don’t have a presence there at all.
LinkedIn was third on the list, driving the most new business for 12 percent of small businesses. And Google+ came in fourth, cited by 10 percent of respondents. Meanwhile, small business owners are still struggling to figure out the business value of social site Pinterest, cited as a sales driver by less than 1 percent of respondents (which differs greatly from other surveys of small business owners).
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 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.
Need help with social media, website design or networking? That’s what the experts at SCORE are for. Visit the SCORE website to get matched with a mentor and get free business advice, 24/7.