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Survey: Do small businesses use social networking?

A recently released survey by Citibank addresses the issue of social networking's role at small businesses.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter have taken off among individuals for personal use. But what about the use of social networking at small businesses?

A survey commissioned by Citibank and conducted by GfK Roper found that some small businesses see little reason to hop onto the social-network bandwagon.

Based on interviews in late August with 500 executives running businesses with fewer than 100 employees, the survey said that 76 percent of them found sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to be of little help in finding new business leads. Further, 86 percent of those questioned have not used social-networking sites to look for business advice or information. The results were released Thursday.


The small firms reported using tools other than social networking to promote and grow their businesses. Among companies with fewer than 20 employees, 42 percent say they've relied more on their own Web site to generate sales leads; for companies with 20 to 99 employees, 57 percent said the same thing.

Other tools used to build business included e-mail marketing, used by 28 percent of those surveyed, and online advertising, used by 25 percent of respondents.

"Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses," Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi's Small Business Segment, said in a statement. "While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them."

A survey released in May by marketing firm MarketingProfs found that 66 percent of the 213 small-business executives questioned considered Twitter "somewhat important" or "extremely important" to their business. And 84 percent expect their use of Twitter to grow over the next six months.

Of those surveyed, 41 percent of respondents said Twitter delivers "great value" to their company, ranking it ahead of LinkedIn and Facebook.

"This data shows that Twitter users, typically early adopters, no longer think of Twitter as just a personal networking tool, but as something that can provide real value for their company or business," Ann Handley, chief content officer for MarketingProfs, said in a press release in May. "Much like Facebook, Twitter is now moving into the business mainstream."

Among the small businesses questioned for MarketingProfs' mid-April survey, 66 percent had fewer than 50 employees, 14 percent had 101 to 1,000 employees, 11 percent had more than 1,000, and 8 percent had 51 to 100.