Use of online marketing by small businesses is set to increase in 2012, according to a recent poll. AT&T’s Small Business Technology Poll found that 60% of small businesses planned to spend as much or more on online marketing in 2012. Affordability and ease of use appear to be key factors driving the increase.
The poll, which was conducted in November 2011, surveyed 1,232 small business owners drawn from e-Rewards’ online business panel of companies. The survey found that 79% of companies used word-of-mouth to promote their business, 63% used their company’s website, and 39% employed social media.
Overall use of social media has increased, though not evenly across all social networks. The number of small businesses with LinkedIn profiles reached 31% in 2011, up from 25% in 2010. The use of location-based services like Foursquare increased from 5% to 9%, with 25% of businesses that use such services saying that they felt them important for sales generation, up from only 2% the previous year.
Facebook use showed a much smaller increase than LinkedIn or location-based services. In 2010 41% of respondents were on Facebook. In 2011 that increased to 44%. Twitter, meanwhile, suffered a bit. Twitter use by small businesses actually fell to 18% in 2011, down from 19% in 2010. Meanwhile, the use of daily deal sites like Groupon or LivingSocial is at a meager 4%, though 90% of those who do use such services run several promotions per year.
Interestingly, preferences for various kinds of online marketing varied by gender. While 65% of male small business owners relied primarily on their companies website, only 58% of female small business owners did so. Conversely, 48% of female small business owners employed social media to market their business, compared to only 34% of male small business owners. Also, small businesses in the education and non-profit fields were more likely to employ social media. Half of education-related small businesses used social media, along with 52% of non-profits, compared to 43% of small businesses overall.
Website use overall remained steady in 2011, with 75% of businesses polled having a company website. Of those, 31% had a mobile-optimized version of their website as well.


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