Study: Smallest Businesses Are Heaviest Web Users

“Micro-business” executives spend more time online than other small business executives and overall Internet users, according to a recent survey by Jupiter Research. The report found this select group of executives, those working in a company with less than five employees, spends more time online than with any other media source.

A total of 449 micro-business executives responded to the survey, which was conducted to compare their media patterns with those of traditional small business execs and average online users. The results show micro-business executives spend a median of 17 hours per week online, exceeding the overall online user’s 15 hours a week and the traditional small business executive’s 10 hours. And their time spent with the Web beat out all other media, including magazines and newspapers (two hours a week each), radio (five hours) and television (14 hours), according to the report.

“Because they spend more time online than other small business executives, we learned that the Internet is an extremely important method [for] targeting these individuals,” says Sonal Gandhi, Jupiter Research analyst and lead author of the report.

Though they spend more time online, these executives are not necessarily more Web-savvy than other professionals. For example, micro-business executives do embrace some forms of social media, including reading and posting on message boards and blogs; but, according to Gandhi, this is no more than the average user.

“We kind of knew this segment was more active online than the average users,” she noted. “They are embracing some next generation tools and technology, but not more than the average user, which was surprising.”

Newspaper sites have the greatest reach with the segment: 14 percent of respondents said they visit them regularly each month, according to the report. But their online time is also spread thinly across many functions, including search, gathering local information and researching travel arrangements.

“Having a balance of both banner ads and search marketing is important,” said Gandhi. “In general we advise that online marketers do more sophisticated behavioral and contextual targeting to get to these segments. Micro-business executives are all over the place, so it is hard to find them in one place.”

In addition, these execs seem to love customization, be it of e-mail newsletters, offers or other services. The report notes that offering exclusive information will help B-to-B marketers get personal information from these users.

Gandhi plans to revisit the data in six months to see what has progressed. “I think the participation in next generation tools and technologies such as blogs and social networking is likely to be higher in the coming year,” she predicted.

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