Small businesses owners are following their customers to online communities. Building brand presence is critical for companies, but they often cannot strategize with so many social media channels.

SMBs find online networking as valuable as in-person networking

Small businesses can benefit greatly from an efficient digital strategy, just like any business, but they have specific needs. With fewer resources, SMBs must contend with a smaller staff that perform more diverse roles, and busy business owners need to make their online networking time count. A poll from SMB online community Manta finds that this type of business gains a significant amount of new customers online - 90 percent of respondents dedicate time to online networking and 74 percent find online networking as or more valuable than in-person networking. Nearly half of polled SMBs consider “gaining and targeting prospective customers” as the most valuable benefit of online networking.

Branding the SMBs and their owners is critical…

This benefit is significant - 78 percent of small businesses have found at least one quarter of their new customers through online or social media channels this year. "Small businesses understand they need to go where their audience is,” according to Manta CEO Pamela Springer. “Participating, networking and being found online is extremely important today in growing their business, so it's not surprising that they are embracing the channel.” Small business owners are seeing a need not just to expand the presence of their company, but of their own online identity as owners. "As 97 percent of consumers use the Internet to research products or services in their local area, and those searches regularly include company name, product or service, or business owner, it is critical small businesses build awareness of themselves and their company online,” BIA/Kelsey Program Director Jed Williams explains.

… But easier to do with the help of enterprise tools

Online and social media channels are growing in value for small businesses, but it is often not possible for them to integrate a strategy themselves. 58 percent of SMBs have not gotten ROI from Facebook or don’t have a page, popular consumer channels Pinterest and Groupon receive one percent or less response, and 25 percent say company website drives the most business. These poor performance indicators belie the value of investing in online presence, but in fact support the need for the multitude of B2B social integration tools and platforms that are entering the market.


By Ivory King