Small Biz Use of Location-Based Services Up, but Remains Low

att-small-biz-social-media-use-march2012.jpgSmall businesses are turning to certain social media tools in increasing numbers, finds AT&T in March 2012 survey results. Facebook was the most popular tool among small businesses in 2011, up 7.3% year-over-year to 44% of respondents, followed by LinkedIn, which was used by 31%, up 24% from 25% a year earlier. And while those using Twitter dropped marginally from 19% to 18%, the use of location-based services almost doubled from 5% to 9%. Indeed, one-quarter of those using location-based services said the application is important for sales generation, a dramatic rise from just 2% in 2010. Just 4% reported using daily deal sites.

A November 2011 report from Constant Contact found much more widespread usage of social media among small businesses: according to those survey results, 81% of the small business respondents were using social media, with Facebook and Twitter the most common tools of choice, at 96% and 76% of social media users, respectively.

Website Still Most Common Tool

Meanwhile, the AT&T survey finds that websites remain the most widespread online marketing tool among small businesses, used by about three-quarters in 2011, roughly the same as a year earlier. About 3 in 10 said they have a mobile website. Interestingly, although male owners are about 12% more likely than female owners to rely on their company website for marketing (65% vs. 58%), female owners are 41% more likely than their male counterparts to rely on social media (48% vs. 34%).

Overall, 3 in 5 small business owners surveyed plan to spend either as much or more on online marketing this year as compared to 2011.

2 in 3 Use Tablets, Mostly for Email

Data from the “Small Business Technology Poll 2012″ indicates that 2 in 3 small businesses use tablets, representing 17.5% growth from 57% a year earlier. Most are not making tablets the heart of their operations, though: only roughly one-quarter say they use their devices to manage their businesses. By contrast, three-quarters use their tablets to check email, while 3 in 5 do so to surf the internet. Other tablet uses are much less common, including for social media (25%), online banking/finance (24%), web/video conferences (19%), or as a cell phone (18%).

Other Findings:

  • Nearly all small businesses surveyed reported use of wireless technologies as a part of their operations, with 63% saying that they either could not survive or would find it a challenge to do so without wireless technology.
  • 43% of the small businesses said that all of their employees use wireless devices or technologies to enable them to work outside of the office, representing an increase of nearly 80% from 3 years ago.
  • By the end of the year, about half of those surveyed expect to have all of their employees using wireless to work outside the office.
  • 3 in 10 small businesses use mobile applications, with the key reasons for doing so being to save time, increase productivity, and reduce costs.
  • Half of the small businesses using mobile apps say that they are key to the business’ survival.
  • Smartphone use is also on the rise, up to 85% of respondents in 2011, from 80% in 2010 and 42% in 2006.

About the Data: The AT&T results are based on an online survey conducted in November 2011 of 1,232 small business owners and/or employees responsible for Information Technology. Small businesses were defined as having between 2 and 100 employees.

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