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12/7/2010
12:42 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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Social Media For Small Biz: A Girl Thang?

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? On Venus, there's allegedly a lot more touchy-feely, emotional stuff going on…you know, talking, crying, connecting. Well, according to a study by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, there's a lot more of something else going on too: social networking.

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? On Venus, there's allegedly a lot more touchy-feely, emotional stuff going on…you know, talking, crying, connecting. Well, according to a study by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, there's a lot more of something else going on too: social networking.Yes, you read it right. The study, in which 1,200 small-business owners across 12 verticals (including financial services, high-tech, hospitality, and real estate) were surveyed, found that female entrepreneurs value social media "at three times the level" of male small-business owners. "[Our] research has previously shown that women entrepreneurs are more customer-focused and more likely to incorporate community into their business plans than male small business owners," said Patricia Greene, special academic adviser to The Guardian, in a press release. "These findings suggest that women small-business owners are more inclined to embrace new tools like social media to engage with customers and build communities of interest."

I'll be frank. When I first read this, I said, "C'mon, you've got to be kidding. Men are just as into Facebook as women." (Yes, I actually said this out loud, to the chagrin of my cat, which, sitting close by, was startled by my exclamation.) But now that I think about it, this might not, in fact, be such a crazy idea--especially when you look at social networking as used by entrepreneurs, and not just by consumers who chat from home when they have a little downtime (or a lot).

And wait…there's more. The differences in social media use weren't observed just between men and women. The Guardian Life study discovered a generational gap as well. Specifically, Millennial small-business owners (those younger than 28) are "far more likely to value social media than any of their generational counterparts." Said counterparts include Gen Xers (ages 29-49), Baby Boomers (ages 50-67), and Silents (ages 68-85).

And here's the kicker. Despite the social media explosion, there are two other things that small-business owners value more when it comes to running their businesses and winning new customers: business software and websites. On the whole, those two items eclipsed Facebook and its brethren, the study showed.

"Small-business owners are significantly leveraging technology for operational efficiency and customer engagement," said Mark Wolf, director of The Guardian Life, in the release. "Social media is emerging as an important tool, and there is every reason to expect it will blossom as more small-business owners begin experimenting with it. But for the majority of small-business owners today, the priority remains firmly focused on those types of technology that provide direct, tangible support of the business, such as their websites and core software."

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