A few weeks back in “The new survival plan: wireless technologies,” I wrote about your increasing reliance on wireless technology to conduct business. I referred to figures from AT&T’s 2012 Small Business Technology Poll, which indicated that two thirds (63 percent) of over 1200 small business surveyed in November of 2011 said they could not survive or it would be a major challenge to without using wireless technology. That same AT&T poll also looked at the importance of online marketing, including social media, for small business promotion.

The survey indicated a continued reliance on grassroots marketing – online and off. Among survey respondents, 79 percent said they rely on word-of-mouth (sounds like many of you are playing by small town rules) followed by the company website at 63 percent and social media at 39 percent.

Among social media channels, LinkedIn saw the greatest increase in usage – from 25 percent in 2010 to 31 percent in 2011. Small business owners find LinkedIn valuable for business networking as well as gaining awareness among local businesses and consumer. Facebook usage increased only slightly from 41 percent in 2010 to 44 percent last year. Twitter use for promotion actually decreased, although only modestly from 19 percent to 18 percent in the year-to-year comparisons.

The use of location-based social channels, such as Foursquare, doubled from 5 to 9 percent. One fourth of those surveyed said location-based services are important for generating sales, a significant increase from the 2 percent who said so the year before.

There’s a gender gap when it comes to the use of the company website. Male business owners are more likely to rely on the company website for marketing than female business owners – 65 percent vs. 58 percent. By contrast, female business owners are more likely to rely on social media than their male counterparts – 48 percent versus 34 percent.  This is interesting – what are your thoughts on why this gap exists?

Overall, 75 percent of small businesses have a website with just a third (31 percent) having a mobile website – one optimized for smartphones. It will be interesting to see how much this figure increases in the coming year considering the growing consumer dependency on mobile and wireless.   My bet is a lot!