Mobile devices have quickly become small business must-haves and wearable technology, like smart watches, is the hot new device category that has the tech industry buzzing. But for small businesses no emerging tech can beat the social media power of Facebook and Twitter.
Manta, a small business online directory and community, teamed with IT systems maker Dell to conduct a survey of 3,000 Manta members. The companies discovered that social media ranks number one (41 percent) among the technologies that hold more promise for small businesses. Mobile devices came in at second place at 32 percent, followed by cloud computing (10 percent), and wearable technologies and 3D printing at 4 percent each.
Small Business Milestones
It makes sense that small business owners would focus on social media because it dovetails with another interesting insight unearthed by the study, said Manta CEO John Swanciger.
Welcoming repeat customers back was the most important business milestone for 36 percent of respondents, followed by first-year profitability (14 percent), awards and recognition (10 percent), opening or expanding a location (10 percent) and the first sale (10 percent).
Gaining repeat customers puts businesses on the path toward success, and "the best way to do that is socially," Swanciger told Small Business Computing. He describes social media sites and services like Facebook and Twitter as "really great vehicles for loyalty." Their ability to facilitate personalized communications, foster customer engagement and deliver on-target promotions resonates both with consumers and businesses, he said.
In terms of hardware-related first investments, desktop and laptop PCs ranked first at 53 percent. Despite the fervor surrounding mobile devices, small businesses still find that they can complete many tasks faster and more efficiently on PCs, said Swanciger.
Printer, scanner and fax equipment came in second at 13 percent and smartphones took third place at 9 percent. Tablets, an internal server and IT support services trailed at 3 percent or less.
SMBs Reveal Motivating Factors
The study also revealed several non-technology factors that affect businesses, including what motivates entrepreneurs to make a go of it.
Financial stability might seem like an obvious incentive, yet it takes a back seat to a more pressing entrepreneurial need. Fifty-seven percent or those polled said that they were motivated to pursue a lifelong dream or to score a personal achievement.
Money, and the stability it can bring, ranked second at 37 percent, followed by giving back to the community (12 percent), attracting great customers (10 percent) and gaining recognition from their peers (1 percent).
Networking (the face-to-face kind) to promote their businesses was the first priority of 21 percent of poll takers. "They want to learn from other businesses," said Swanciger.
High-tech startups and companies are particularly big on industry events and meet-ups. "The more technical a business is, the more networking is important to them," he added. Other priorities include writing a business plan (18 percent), acquiring needed equipment (17), seeking advice from successful entrepreneurs (10 percent) and finding a business location (9 percent).
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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