Social Web sites can help small businesses


More than 80 percent of businesspeople surveyed say social media like Twitter and Facebook has generated exposure for their businesses.

If you hear the word twitter and think of birds, you're a step behind the marketing efforts of your colleagues. A new survey found that a whopping 88 percent of small business owners and employees are using social media, like Twitter, to gain attention for their businesses, improve traffic to their Web sites, and find new clients. Why not apply this strategy in the veterinary world?

Here are the top four social media tools-all free-used by the mostly small business owners surveyed, in order of popularity:

1.Twitter, where users post short messages of 140 characters or less about sales and specials at their businesses, funny or informative online tidbits, or just day-to-day experiences in their personal and professional lives.

2. Blogs, hosted for free online or on people's own servers, that act as online journals. Places to start one free include Blogger, Livejournal, or WordPress. You can click here to watch a video tutorial about how to start a blog at Blogger.

3.LinkedIn, a massive professional networking Web site where users connect with former and current employers, employees, clients, and colleagues.

4.Facebook, a personal networking Web site where users post pictures, join groups, and exchange messages with friends, family, and even clients.

What are the business benefits of connecting to new and current clients with social media sites? Respondents cited:

> Eighty-one percent said their social media efforts have generated exposure.

> More than 66 percent said spending six hours or less a week on social media Web sites boosted traffic to their company's site.

> Nearly 80 percent said their Web site rose in search engine rankings.

> One-third of respondents said social media marketing helped them generate new clients. For those business owners who've used social media for years, the number rocketed to 62 percent of respondents. Respondents said the time they've spent interacting and playing with social media sites pays off in the long run with better results.

If you haven't started using free social media, don't worry. In the study, 72 percent said they just started or have been using social media for only a few months.

The study was conducted by Michael Stelzner for the upcoming Social Media Success Summit 2009.

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