SurePayroll Insights Survey: Small Businesses Harnessing the Power of Social Networking for Business

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SurePayroll survey finds that six out of 10 small business owners have an average to extensive understanding of social networking

It is no longer just an outlet for personal use -- it's rapidly becoming a must for business success

According to a recent survey conducted by online payroll service SurePayroll, the majority of small business owners believe there is a clear business value in popular social networking Web sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

When SurePayroll asked small business owners if they believe online social networking has a place in the business world, 55% said yes. What's more, the survey indicates that one out of every five of the small business owners polled had actually obtained at least one new customer as a direct result of using social media.

"It's excellent that so many small businesses are starting to recognize the benefits of social networking," says SurePayroll Online Marketing Manager David Rohrer. "Social networking offers small business owners an inexpensive and effective way for them to connect with their customers and prospects."

According to Rohrer, the online presence of small businesses is becoming more important to remain competitive with big businesses.

"It is no longer just an outlet for personal use -- it's rapidly becoming a must for business success," says Rohrer. "Big business is tapping into the blogosphere and posting their company profile pages in online communities. Small business owners need to do the same. What's so great about the online world is you don't need a million-dollar marketing budget. In fact, the most effective online connections are free personal communications from a business owner to their community."

According to a recent September 2008 study conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for Cone, your customers want businesses to get involved. The study reveals that six out of 10 Americans who use social media interact with companies on social media Web sites. Likewise, 85% of social media users believe companies should interact with their consumers through social media outlets.

With more than 50 million non-college attendees using Facebook today, the prominence of social media is growing. Professional social networking site LinkedIn grew 187% over the past year. Based on a research project developed by Universal McCann, 36% of online users think more positively about companies that have blogs. In the SurePayroll survey, 85% of business owners participating in social media for business are doing so by way of blogging online.

While the majority of SurePayroll respondents indicated social media is useful for business purposes, a third answered that they were unsure of social media's role in the business world.

Rohrer says some small businesses just need to be educated on how their company can get involved in social networking and offers these tips:

--- How to Optimize the ROI of Social Networking ---

1. Know Your Target Audience

Digg, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer different advantages to a small business.

  • Know which outlet is most effective for your message and audience.
  • Start a blog, or comment on other blogs to contribute to what those in your industry are saying.
  • Share videos like "how-to" clips or tours of your business. Join groups like Google Groups, Yahoo Groups or industry-specific sites that are related to the products or services you offer.

Yahoo! Answers and Linkedin Answers are great outlets for service-based business, as they allow you to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Matt McGee of SmallBusinessSEM.com wrote a great blog post about Yahoo Answers to get you started.

2. Get Started…Without a Financial Investment

No one can argue the fact that time is money. If you are like most smaller businesses with few-to-no resources, you can still participate by simply listening. The cost is minimal and the payoff can be great. You can listen to what people are saying about you and your competitors. You will learn what people dislike about your products and services and see if anyone is providing suggested improvements. You may even find forums where people are giving you some of the best testimonials you have ever heard, but you have to be listening to hear them. Marketing Pilgrim has written a Beginner's Guide to Social Media Marketing that will help get you started. Also, read Chris Brogan's Social Media Power Secret to learn about where to listen.

3. Maintain Your Commitment

Being available and engaging with your online audience is essential. All your online communications define the level of success you'll have in your targeted community, including the personal touch you put in your:

  • Blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • StumbleUpon reviews
  • Twitter tweets

If you create a blog for your company, post regularly and respond to comments. Give your blog a personality and make sure it's not just another place for your press releases.

If you choose to join Yahoo Answers, StumbleUpon, Digg or any other sites, just be active and participate. The worst thing you can do is blatantly try to market your company, and the best thing you can do is simply be part of the community.

Twitter allows you to communicate up-to-date news about initiatives, interactive support for customers, and is an open forum for discussion. Being transparent with your business motives and happenings allows for more consumer trust and builds a relationship founded on the belief that you're always available.

Chris Winfield of 10e20 wrote a great post about the 10 Simple Steps to Social Media Success In 2008 to help you along the way.

About SurePayroll:
Voted Editor's Choice for best payroll service by PC Magazine, a Top 100 Product by Accounting Today and finalist in the Best Customer Care and Best Product categories of the 2008 American Business Awards, SurePayroll is America's largest full-service online payroll service and honoree of the of the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Businesses award two years in a row.

SurePayroll is passionate about small businesses and their payroll. The company is dedicated to providing an extremely friendly and simple payroll experience - at a price small business owners can afford.

In addition to its payroll and ClickFREETM tax file and pay service - which allows a user to complete the entire payroll process in minutes - SurePayroll offers a suite of online services designed specifically for small business, including HR and compliance resources, 401(k) retirement solutions, health insurance and workers' compensation products.

SurePayroll also offers a private-label and co-branded payroll service to accountants and banking partners to offer payroll processing to their small business clients.

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Frank Krolicki
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