Despite the ubiquitous buzz around social media, most small businesses today aren’t using basic online tools readily available to them to help grow their businesses, according to the latest small business survey by Citibank.
A March survey of 552 small business executives across the U.S. revealed that 37 percent of small businesses haven’t used a website for marketing or expanding their business in the last year, and 84 percent haven’t used e-commerce to sell their products or services.
Additionally, 62 percent aren’t using basic email for marketing their business. Yet among those businesses that do have a website, 74 percent said their site has been effective at generating more business.
When it comes to more advanced methods of online marketing, and increasing reach and influence, the survey’s findings were similar: Sixty-five percent of small businesses aren’t placing online ads to expand their businesses, and 67 percent haven’t used search engine optimization.
The survey also uncoverd a disconnect: While 63 percent of respondents said word-of-mouth is the most effective way to market their businesses and find new customers, 81 percent said they haven’t used social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Among those not using social media, 47 percent don’t believe these sites are of value to their business while another 21 percent believe these sites are more for personal use than business use. Eighteen percent said they don’t know enough about how to use the sites.
At the same time, many small businesses said they plan more online activity in the next 12 months. Consider the following findings:
- 72 percent said they’re likely to use a website for marketing or expanding their business in the next 12 months — up 14 percent from those who do today;
- 24 percent will likely use e-commerce to sell their products or services over the next 12 months — up 50 percent from those who do today; and
- 30 percent said they intend to use social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for marketing or expanding their business — up 58 percent from those who do today.
Age makes a difference
The survey also revealed that when it comes to leveraging online tools for business growth, small business executives 45-years-old and older are less likely to use online tools than younger small business executives.
Twenty-seven percent of small business executives under the age of 45 used social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as marketing tools in the last 12 months, while only 16 percent of their peers aged 45 and over used them. In addition, more younger survey respondents said they’re likely to use a company website for marketing purposes (81 percent versus 69 percent of older respondents) and SEO (52 percent versus 35 percent of older respondents) to market their business in the next year.