Small businesses struggling to keep up online activity

A new survey has revealed a significant decline in online marketing activity among small businesses, despite an increasing number running their own website.

The MYOB July 2012 Business Monitor survey of 1,004 SME operators found proactive online business activity such as internet transactions, email marketing and social media was in decline. The number of SMEs with a website rose slightly to 38% from 36% in March.

The number of SMEs participating in social media activity such as connecting with customers on Facebook, YouTube or Google+ dropped from 18% to 15%. The number networking via LinkedIn also dropped, down from 19% to 13%.

MYOB chief executive Tim Reed said: "The decline in popularity of online business activities was completely unexpected, particularly that of online marketing and social media. Many of these tools, such as a basic LinkedIn page, are free and can be used to raise the profile of a business and to communicate with customers."

Shona Mackin, chief engagement officer of specialist agency SocialFace, said many SMEs were getting into social media with unrealistic expectations.

"So many businesses go in unprepared, not realising the time and effort it takes to actually do it properly. They think it's easy, it's just Facebook, but there's so much more to it than that. Social media shouldn't be the be all and end all, it should be there to support your brand," she said.

"With the time lag it takes between setting up your social media presence and actually seeing results, I think a lot of [small businesses] get disheartened and come away thinking it's not effective."

Reed said more SME operators were experiencing revenue falls and the majority lacked confidence in short-term economic recovery. "I suspect this has seen many shy away from online activities as they focus on the health of their business, whereas embracing them could reap productivity benefits," he said.

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