How do you use the Web? Do you mainly go online to watch the latest Funny or Die video and check out some scores? Or do you do use it to read business news, book and buy travel, and maybe even do a little investing? And does it even matter?
It turns out it does matter, a lot.
A recent survey conducted by American City Business Journals (ACBJ) found that the way you use the Internet has a direct correlation to how successful you are in business. The survey breaks the Internet use of small business owners down into five different groups and concludes that the more engaged you are online, the higher your sales are.
The survey looked at almost 2,000 small business owners with between five and 400 employees. It then looked at the various online activities of those businesses – everything from reading the news to writing blogs, from commenting on articles to conducting e-commerce.
The more engaged you are, the better your business from the looks of things.
The five types are:
1. Viewers: Like the name suggests, Viewers view the Web, but they are less inclined to actively participate in it. For this group, the Internet is an entertainment medium used to digest news, sports, videos and the like.
Maybe not surprisingly, Viewers make up the largest percentage of small business Internet users at 24 percent. But the bad news is that they account for 10 percent of small business sales, and their businesses are the smallest of all groups surveyed.
2. Commentators: The next group interacts more online than Viewers, mostly by commenting on content and blogging. They work at home more than the other groups, work the longest hours, are the youngest, and have the most minority-owned businesses. They buy stuff online at the lowest rates of all groups.
17 percent of small businesses are Commentators, and they generate only 14 percent of the sales.
3. Interactors: Now we’re talking. Coming in at 15 percent of all groups, Interactors nevertheless account for 24 percent of all small business sales.
Interactors are the most educated of these five groups and they use the Net for all sorts of things: to download software, buy business products and services, for research, to make online travel arrangements, and sure, to read the news too.
Godfrey Phillips, ACBJ vice president for research and the study’s author, says, “Interactors just do more of everything and they don’t [just] watch music videos. They’re using [the Internet] as a business tool, totally.”
4. Investors: Although Investors are less inclined than Interactors to use the Net, they nevertheless use it very specifically, and not in a surprising way, given their moniker: Investors consume business and banking news, and they use online tools for investing. They tend to be male, have the highest net worth of all of these groups, and run the oldest businesses.
Investors account for 22 percent of businesses and 23 percent of sales.
5. Transactors: These folks are the busiest online, and the interesting thing is that they are also the most successful in business, accounting for 25 percent of all businesses surveyed, but 29 percent of all sales. They are the second oldest group and own the second-oldest number of businesses.
Transactors use the Web for everything: Keeping their own websites up to date, research, customer service, e-commerce, software updates – the whole magilla.
So, what are we to make of the survey and its results? It is hard to escape the conclusion that those small business owners who have embraced the significant technological and online shift we are all now living through are finding the most success in business. They embrace the Net, use it for all its worth, and in the process increase their own net worth.
According to Mr. Phillips, “You can’t be out of the Internet and be a successful business person. It would just be impossible.”