As many as 6 out of 10 small businesses plan to incorporate online marketing into their business plan in 2012, according to a recent AT&T poll.

The AT&T Small Business Technology Poll found that the main reasons cited by businesses for turning to online marketing are the low cost and user-friendliness.

The AT&T poll included 1,232 owners of small companies who were part of the AT&T eRewards programs. In addition to online marketing, nearly 8 out of 10 business owners said they relied on word-of-mouth as a marketing tool, 64 percent said they relied on their website and 39 percent said they were involved in social media to link with potential customers.

Taking a more detailed look at social networks, the survey showed that 31 percent of the small company owners had placed their company’s profiles on LinkedIn during 2011, a 6 percent increase from 2010. Other services such as Foursquare also saw increased participation from small companies, according to the survey. Nine percent of the companies were part of Foursquare in 2011, compared to just 5 percent in 2010.

Facebook attracted a larger percentage of the small businesses, but registered a smaller increase in use, according to the survey. In 2011, 44 percent of the companies were on Facebook, slightly up from 41 percent in 2010. Twitter, on the other hand, struggled to keep its standing with the small companies in the survey. In 2011, 18 percent used Twitter, down from 19 percent the year before.

The survey also asked companies about daily deal sites such as Groupon or LivingSocial. Only 4 percent of the companies said they relied on those services.

The AT&T survey also showed a significant difference in online marketing strategy between male and female owners of small businesses. Only 58 percent of female owners of small companies said they primarily relied on the company’s website. That compared to 65 percent of male business owners who said the company website played a major role in online marketing. In the area of social media, female company owners were more likely to use  LinkedIn and others to market their companies. Only 34 percent of male owners shared that interest in social media for marketing.

The reliance on websites did not waver in 2011, according to the survey. Three out of four small companies reported having a website, about the same as in 2010.


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