Here are the numbers: 74% of small-business owners in a recent poll say that networking online is as, or more, important than meeting with their networks face-to-face.
The number is among the results of a new survey conducted by Manta, an online community-builder for small businesses.
The survey numbers are of the kind that make you sit up and address some long-held notions. The idea that the importance of online networking is eclipsing person-to-person? It is absolutely contrary what old-school networking strategies have emphasized for so long.
But then, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
Consumers and business owners, nowadays they’re on the web. Mobile business accounts for some 1 billion workers. And small-business owners are freshly focusing on the facts.
Let’s take a closer look, talk to some owners about the change, and find out what else the survey can tell us about the development of networking on the web.
Connecting Online: One Sweet Step at a Time
Sherry Sheppard owns i love cupcakes, in Largo, Florida. For her, getting online and bringing her concept to new people is an integral part of her work.
“Continuous customer support and tools,” Sheppard says of her Internet networking experience, “have really helped us leverage creative ways to reach people. New and innovative opportunities to market to and connect with people online has really helped get our specialty cupcake bakery noticed, which has proven to be vital to our ongoing success.”
To what extent?
Sheppard says that 70% of her business comes to her via online networking. That’s more than just frosting on the cake.
Running the Numbers: Online Networking on the Rise
Of the 600 small businesses polled, Manta’s survey helps paint the picture of not only how many owners say web-based networking is important, but it also gives us a sense of how much time they’re spending doing it throughout the year.
- 52% say they dedicate half or more of their business networking time to online channels in 2012.
- Percentage of owners who say they give all their business-networking attention to the web: 7%
- 36% of the owners said that half or more of their new customers in the past year found them through online channels.
- Company websites are still leading the pack, when it comes to driving business. 24% of the owners said so.
- Close behind is Facebook. 19% of the owners polled said The Social Network was the chief driver of business from the web to their services.
Building Businesses Online: Standing Out in the Crowd
The numbers certainly tell a story. But the thinking behind these stats is perhaps best summarized by one small-business executive who’s competing for customers daily.
“Since there are so many avenues to connect with people today, it’s important to consistently stand out from all the noise,” says Joseph Buczek, president of Indiana and Missouri-based Lighthouse Construction and Restoration, Inc. “In the architectural and remodeling industry, I have a lot of competitors and I need to be where my customers are – and that’s online.”