ALMOST a third of SME owners and senior managers across the UK actively reach out for business advice and support through social media, a survey has revealed.
Of that number, 78% admit that they now seek more guidance from social networks including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn than they would from traditional means, such as meetings with their accountant or lawyer.
The figures are taken from the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly poll that canvasses the opinions of business owners and managers from a range of sectors across the UK and Ireland.
CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance, David Thomson said: “Our research suggests that the evolution of social media has had a significant impact on how small businesses seek advice.
“It is easier than ever before for SME owners to connect with their peers and social networks allow access to a growing platform for discussion and debate. They can use it to help develop both their business strategies and knowledge, and significantly, there are minimal costs involved.”
Despite the growing influence of social media however, the survey found that 32% of all business owners surveyed still trust online advice less than traditional sources.
“One of the greatest concerns with social media channels is the origin of the information, as it can be difficult to distinguish the author’s credentials and how reliable the content may be. Anyone can offer their opinions online so while it’s great that companies are using social networks to boost their knowledge, it’s somewhat reassuring to see they still approach the information with a degree of caution.
“Traditional sources remain highly trusted and half of SMEs polled in the Business Barometer believe that they haven’t lost their value.
“Particularly when it comes to financial guidance, business owners should seek professional advice,” Mr Thomson added.