When it comes to taking advantage of Web 2.0 tools to obtain business management information, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are clearly taking a wait-and-see approach. This is one of the many findings in a new study released today by Bredin Business Information, Inc., which sought to gain a clearer understanding of how SMBs perceive the value of online tools such as blogs, social networks, wikis and other emerging formats.
The study asked over 300 U.S.-based SMBs to assess the importance of various Web 2.0 formats as sources of business management information over the next five years. Only 14% expect that blogs will be very or extremely important, with similar ratings coming in for wikis (21%), social networking sites (22%) and webcasts (31%). At the same time, more traditional methods of delivering resource information ranked high, with 49% rating email newsletters as very or extremely valuable over the next five years, and 46% giving that ranking to interactive tools such as quizzes or calculators.
Despite the hype surrounding Web 2.0, SMBs are not yet sure how these tools are useful in locating business-related information. The survey asked SMBs how their attitudes toward certain online tools had changed over the past several years. Interestingly, 41% said they were more positive about interactive tools and email newsletters, and 30% were more positive about community forums. Other Web 2.0 formats fared less well. While 19% were more positive about social networking, 21% were less positive. Blogs (18% more positive/16% less) and wikis (17% more positive/14% less) had similar results.
BBI simultaneously surveyed marketers at companies that sell to SMBs to rate the value of these tools for marketing purposes. The disparity between marketer’s plans to offer these tools with SMB interest in using them is striking. For example, 39% of marketers rated blogs as very/extremely valuable over the next five years (25 percentage points more than SMBs), and 67% rated webcasts as very/highly valuable (31 points higher than SMBs).
“SMBs are telling their vendors it is the message, not the medium, that matters,” said BBI CEO Stu Richards. “It is not surprising that SMBs have not yet warmed to Web 2.0 – they are typically not early adopters. While these formats offer tremendous potential to enhance relationships with SMBs, the challenge for marketers to use these methods effectively is to provide SMBs with relevant, actionable and easy-to-access information and advice. Whatever format marketers choose to roll out, they should test it on a limited basis, and manage expectations for adoption. In the meantime, the research shows that they should consider reaching SMBs through email newsletters and interactive tools if they do not already.”
Among other key findings from BBI’s report on SMBs and Web 2.0:
- SMBs don’t yet see the value of many Web 2.0 tools. When asked why they don’t use blogs, 57% said they don’t see the value, and 54% don’t see the value of social networking sites.
- Regardless of the information format, SMBs most commonly look for information on accounting and finance (63%), technology/software (50%) and industry trends (46%). The least-sought topics were international business (20%), entrepreneurship/innovation (30%) and law (32%).
- SMBs look to their vendors first for tools and information to help run their businesses. 31 percent said they would be very likely to seek this information from their vendors’ websites, as opposed to the sites of trade associations (20%), government/non-profits (18%), colleges/universities (15%) and the media (13%).
- Nearly half of SMBs (48%) begin their search for business help on a search engine. 33 percent go to sites they know have good resources, and 19% go straight to the sites of their current vendors.
Source: Bredin Business Information