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Nine in ten small business owners with an online presence dedicate time to networking online via social networks, online forums, etc., and 74% say networking online is just as valuable, if not more so, than networking in person, according to a survey from Manta, an online community for small businesses.

Moreover, 78% of surveyed online small business owners say they've gained at least 25% of their new business leads via online and social channels in 2012.

Below, additional findings form Manta's Small Business Survey.

Over one-third (38%) of surveyed business owners devote a quarter (25%) of their business networking time to online channels, and nearly one-half (24%) devote a half (50%) of their time doing so.

Gains from Online Networking

A plurality (42%) of small business owners surveyed have gained about one-quarter (25%) of new business via online and social channels (websites, social networks, online forums, etc.) this year.

New business is a key motivation for online small businesses: 35% of owners say the most valuable benefit of networking online is being found by new customers; 21% cite referrals, and 14% cite the ability to engage with new prospects online.

Fewer than one in ten online small business owners cite gaining business-related information (9%) or establishing thought leadership (7%) as a key benefit from networking online.

Most Effective Channels

More than two in five small business owners (42%) say they have a presence on Facebook and find it valuable, whereas 30% have a presence but don't find in valuable and 23% have no presence at all. 

A plurality of surveyed small business owners (24%) cite their website as the most important driver of new business, 19% cite Facebook, and 12% cite LinkedIn. Pinterest and Groupon are the least cited for driving business.

About the data: Findings are based on a poll of 614 small business owners across the nation who are members of Manta.com and have claimed their Manta business profile, via an online Silverpop survey, August 16-22, 2012. 

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