Small Businesses Find Success With Social-Media Deals: Survey Says

Who’s checking in to location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla? It’s not who you think. Where are consumers going to look for deals? It’s not just your website. And what tech toys are entrepreneurs planning to spend money on this year? Here’s a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

Check Her In

Mobile Dependence Day, a new study fromExactTarget, reports that 28 percent of smartphone owners (12 percent of the overall U.S. online population) have used their phone to “check in” at least once to location-based services likeFoursquareGowalla and Facebook Places.

But if you envision the typical check-inner as a 20-something male hipster, think again. ExactTarget found women are more likely than men to use check-in services (37 percent versus 21 percent). And women ages 35 to 54 are even more likely to check in (38 percent have done so, compared to just 13 percent of men in that group). What accounts for the difference? Women, particularly those in the 35-54 demo, are the segment most interested in deals and discounts, and likely view location-based services as a quick way to grab deals.

About Face(book)

Speaking of deals, Facebook business pages are becoming a key way that consumers learn about deals and special offers. According to new research from Compete, 25 percent of consumers say they visit an official Facebook page for a retailer or product at least once a month. More than half of these respondents (56 percent) say the main reason they go to retailers’ Facebook pages is to stay current on sales and promotions. (In fact, the survey found that Apple’s iTunes Facebook page actually had more visits than the actual iTunes store.)

By comparison, showing that they “like” a company, or connecting with the company, was not high on the list of reasons for visiting a Facebook page — both those reasons were cited by about 14 percent of respondents.

Is Facebook effective? More than 20 percent of consumers say Facebook pages have been “influential” or “extremely influential” when making a purchasing decision. Speaking as a fervent deal-seeker, I know they’ve influenced me.

IT Issues

Are small businesses ready to invest in IT? Yes and no. The latest CDW IT Monitor describes IT decision-makers as “cautiously optimistic,” but reports only about one-fourth (24 percent) of them plan to increase spending on IT solutions in the next six months.

Where will their money go? Half will be spending on software, and 44 percent on hardware. In terms of IT needs, virtualization, security and cloud computing are top areas of interest. Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed say security is a greater concern than in the past two years, with internal threats seen as the biggest worry. Of those threats, the number-one concern was social networks, followed by mobile devices.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit her blog at Visit her website SmallBizTrendCast to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.