Small Business Trends: The Shift Online

90 Percent Networking Online, According to New Manta Survey

90 percent of SMBs are Networking OnlineSmall business is rapidly embracing an online presence as a vehicle for marketing and increasing their customer base. Web-based platforms have become an intricate part of all functions of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs)—including acquiring and training employees, as well as interacting with existing and prospective clients.

According to a survey of business owners by Manta, a web-based community for small business, nearly half of businesses reported using online interactions to target potential customers. In addition, more than three-quarters—78 percent—reported gaining 25 percent of all new customers through social media and online networks.

SMBs go where the people are

“Small businesses understand they need to go where their audience is,” said Manta CEO Pamela Springer, in a press release.

“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,” Springer added.

The Manta survey found an overwhelming majority of consumers (97 percent) use online resources as part of the buying process; they study local merchants, restaurants and service providers. This growing trend is not going away anytime soon, especially figuring in the increased usage of mobile devices, tablets and smartphones. Small businesses are beginning to realize that an online presence is essential to success in today’s marketplace.

The Online Challenge

This new move for SMBs to virtual networks does not come without challenges. The huge number of online and social media platforms available to business can be overwhelming. The first question is where to start.

Fifty-eight percent of the SMBs surveyed by Manta note that using Facebook to promote business is not seen to be valuable; few of them do not have a page on the world’s largest social network. Other platforms, like Pinterest and Groupon, may be popular with consumers, but not with business owners. The two offer negligible returns on investment, with Pinterest at 1 percent and Groupon less than 1 percent response rates.

However, nearly 25 percent of SMBs surveyed say a company website or blog is the driver of the most business, the best starting point to drive awareness and customer interest.

Networking with Other Businesses

An online presence is more than just connecting with customers; it can be a way for SMBs to network and strategize with each other.  Manta, among others, provide small businesses the ways to identify and develop through large online communities dedicated solely to SMBs. Owners use Manta to create products and resource pages to showcase offerings and profiles, as a way to  build recognition. These online communities provide a go-to place for SMBs to be located, and connect with customers and partners.

More than customers

A growing small business can quickly outgrow the basic tools—such as Quicken and Excel—to manage personnel information and employee records. Increasingly, SMBs are turning to online resources to tracking payroll, performance and benefits.

This is where Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) provides solutions.

These are cloud-based programs that go beyond expensive “enterprise” applications which can be substantial, unwieldy and with more features than a small business needs. The newest HR systems are affordable and easy to implement; they can conduct recruitment and hiring, in addition to onboarding, pre-employment screenings, performance evaluations and benefits management. The best of these providers, like Taleo, SimpleHR ClearFit and Ovation Technologies, are fully customizable and simplified for SMBs of any size.

SMB owners now can full take advantage of the benefits and cost savings presented by online platforms—for you, your employees and your customers.  Use it to reach new customers, find workers and partners; ask questions, get expert help or simply share some of your experiences.

Any SMB, in every industry and of all sizes can benefit from these online innovations, leaving them free to concentrate on what really matters, growing the bottom line.


Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: Email: Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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