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?
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