Social media top for finding new customers

Over one third of UK small businesses say they use social media sites to find new customers, research has found.

The findings from BaseKit indicate that social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, have now overtaken local directories as a primary source of business marketing.

According to the survey, 36 per cent of businesses use social networking sites to market themselves, as opposed to relying on directories (27 per cent), print advertising (21 per cent) or online advertising (20 per cent).

It warned that businesses failing to harness the web were in danger of becoming 'digital dinosaurs' and risk being outstripped by competitors.

Speaking to 500 business owners, it found that 60 per cent of small businesses in the UK are not online, despite the fact that three quarters said that doing so was critical to attracting new leads and boosting their company's reputation.

Both small and large businesses are increasingly shifting their marketing towards social media sites due to lower costs and the ability to target large number consumers instantaneously.

BaseKit founder Simon Best said: "Businesses tell us that one-to-one marketing is their most efficient and most successful way of generating new business - the fact that Facebook has become the number one source of new business within just a few years of its creation is remarkable."

The research also found that only one in six business owners felt they had a website which they could be proud of, with many saying their sites were out of date. A further 11 per cent said their online presence was poor, with 19 per cent integrated with social media sites and only 18 per cent being SEO optimised - how visible the site is to those searching for it.

Simon Best added: "The simple truth is that, for a small business with customers who may be under 40, if you're not on the web then you are more-or-less invisible."

"Every small business in the UK should be able to take advantage of the power of the internet as a tool to grow."