Small business owners are devoting less time to online marketing and social media despite an increasing number running their own websites.
Sales and growth opportunities are being missed as a result of the lack of attention, experts say.
The unexpected decline in online business activity was revealed in a recent MYOB Business Monitor survey of 1004 SME operators.
The survey found that while the proportion of operators with a business website rose slightly from 36 per cent in March to 38 per cent in July, less than a quarter (24 per cent) use search engines actively to promote their business.
Social media activity has declined from 18 per cent to 15 per cent and LinkedIn from 19 per cent to 13 per cent.
MYOB CEO Tim Reed says it is the first time a decline in online business activity has been detected and was “completely unexpected”.
He says it’s too early to tell if the latest figures will become a continuing trend and he expects the use of social media in business to bounce back as the economy strengthens.
“It’s representative of the time pressure that is put on businesses now," he says.
“We also found more business operators are experiencing revenue falls than are experiencing rises, and the majority lack confidence in a 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 says.
Reed says the rise in the number of SMEs with websites was encouraging.
More than one third (37 per cent) of SMEs with a business website reported it increased customer leads and 34 per cent say it improved their customer interaction.
The survey found 33 per cent of businesses enjoyed better conversion of leads to sales, 32 per cent grew their revenue as a result, and 30 per cent said it enabled them to compete more effectively.
“[A web site] is the best opportunity to represent your brand in your own space,” says Reed.
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