Small businesses have significantly boosted their use of social media to connect with customers, although most still prefer their websites to their Facebook pages, according to a new report.
A poll of 2,264 SMEs with an online presence by Melbourne IT found that the proportion using social media to deal with customers rose from 34% to 50% in 2011.
More than three-quarters preferred to direct customers to their website rather than Facebook page when using social media, while just 5% agreed that group buying coupon sites offered sales or marketing benefits to their business.
Online investment intentions for 2012 appear strong, with 59% of respondents saying that they will increase website spending, 53% upping spending on technology and 54% increasing outlay on marketing.
The report found that few small businesses are planning to cut investment next year. The single biggest area in which SMEs are planning to cut is recruitment, with 4% saying that they will reduce spend.
Meanwhile, 84% of those polled agreed or strongly agreed that the internet was vital to the running of their business.
“The innovation and apparent confidence we are seeing from Australia’s internet-savvy small business sector is encouraging,” says Damon Fieldgate, executive GM at Melbourne IT.
“It’s our view that the internet is becoming the primary route to market for many businesses and small companies appear to be embracing new technologies and online initiatives to not only survive, but thrive.”
“Social media can be a fabulous business tool for small businesses and those ‘eSMBs’ who ignore it are missing an opportunity to engage with potential new customers.
“However as the results show, speculation of the ‘death’ of the company website in favour of Facebook is exaggerated.”
“These results suggest eSMBs are instead using social media as a supplement to their business models rather than making them the focal point, which is in turn helping them broaden their scope, customer base and revenue opportunities.”