Web 2.0? Small Businesses Say No Thanks

A recent marketing study shows that small businesses don't see much value in blogs, wikis and social networking formats.

It's no secret that lots of companies want to sell to the small business market — including other small businesses. After all, 24.7 million such companies make a sizable piece of financial pie. If your income depends on selling to this market, a recent study conducted by Bredin Business Information shows that when it comes to obtaining business-management information, small businesses just say no to Web 2.0.

"When it comes to Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, marketers think, 'Oh, this is cool, therefore I must do it,'" Stu Richards, CEO of Bredin Business Information, said. "But small business owners are so time-starved, they're not just going to do something because of the buzz."

Richards added that the study's findings are significant. "They inject a note of reality," he said. "The study's major takeaway is, to borrow a phrase, where's the beef?"

Likening small business owners to residents of Missouri — the "Show Me" state, Richards said that SMBs are hesitant to invest in something unless they know beforehand that they'll get real value.

The Results Are In
The study asked more than 300 small business owners in the U.S. to rate the relevance of different Web 2.0 tools as a means of obtaining business management information over the next five years. Only 14 percent of respondents said they believe that blogs will be very or extremely important. Wikis earned 21 percent with social networking sites and Web casts scoring 22 and 31 percent of the vote, respectively.

Illustrating that old school can still rule, traditional methods of providing resource information scored much better. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said that e-mail newsletters will continue to be very or extremely valuable for the next five years, and interactive tools such as quizzes and calculators scored 46 percent.

The study showed that while Web 2.0 hype abounds, most small business owners don't understand how they can help them find the business-related information they need. One part of the survey asked how their attitudes toward various online tools changed over thee past few years. Forty-one percent responded positively about interactive tools and e-mail newsletters, while community forums received a 30 percent response.

Other Web 2.0 tools received a less-enthusiastic response. Participants were 21 percent less positive and only 19 percent more positive about social networking. Blogs scored 18 percent more and 16 percent less positive with wikis trailing closely at 17 percent more and 14 percent less positive responses.

BBI conducted a simultaneous survey of 46 marketers who target small businesses. The results were markedly different, with 39 percent rating blogs — and 67 percent choosing Webcasts — as very or extremely valuable. That's 25 and 31 points higher than the small business respondents, respectively.

"Small business owners are telling their vendors it's the message, not the medium, that matters," said Richards.

The survey also provided insight to they types of information SMBs look for and where they go to find it. Topping the list, 63 percent of those surveyed search for information on accounting and finance. Coming in at number two is technology and software at 50 percent, followed by industry trends at 40 percent.

Thirty-one percent of those surveyed look for this information at their vendor's Web site, with trade association sites scoring 20 percent, government/nonprofits 18 percent, colleges/universities 15 percent and the media 13 percent.

Almost half (48 percent) of all participants said the first place they begin looking for business help is on a search engine, 33 percent use sites they know to have good resources and 19 percent go immediately to their current vendor's site.

This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.

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