3 Business Trends You Should Watch: Survey Says

Are you one of those small-business owners who has a “What, me worry?” attitude? If you take pride in not jumping on the latest trends or getting too worked up about what could possibly happen, this week’s surveys will give you a little reality check. Put on your seat belts -- it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Social Matters

Still think social media doesn’t matter much to your business? Think again. According to Nielsen’s Social Media Report Q3 2011, Americans spend nearly one-quarter of their overall Internet time on social media and blogs. And they spend more time on Facebook than on any other website -- a total of 53.5 billion minutes in May 2011. (Yahoo came in a distant second, with 17.2 billion minutes, while Google accounted for 12.5 billion minutes.)

Overall, social networks and blogs are the number-one place Americans spend their time online, accounting for more than double the time spent on the number-two activity, online gaming. Nielsen says the results illustrate the powerful influence social media has on consumer behavior. As someone who puts a lot of effort into social media -- and has found it pays off for my business -- I can vouch for the results.

Accentuate the Positive

Still think you don’t have to concern yourself with online reviews and ratings? Sorry, but you’re wrong about that, too. Negative information online has led 80 percent of consumers to change their minds about buying a product or service even after someone offline had recommended it, reports the 2011 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker. That’s an increase from the 67 percent of consumers who said the same in 2010. And 87 percent say finding positive information online helps cement their buying decision.

Reviews are especially important if you sell big-ticket items, such as cars or home appliances. Cone found consumers today are nearly 25 percent more likely to go online to verify recommendations for major purchases than in 2010.

If Data Disasters Don’t Scare You, They Should

Still think you don’t have to worry about a disaster wiping out your business data? You’re not alone -- 54 percent of small businesses owners in a new study by Carbonite don’t think a data-destroying disaster will hit their businesses either. What’s worse, 57 percent don’t have a disaster plan in place -- despite the fact that 81 percent say data is their most valuable asset. In fact, respondents ranked the permanent loss of data as the worst challenge their businesses could face in the event of a natural disaster.

If something is so valuable, shouldn’t you protect it? FEMA statistics show between 40 and 60 percent of small businesses that suffer data losses in a disaster never reopen. If you don’t believe FEMA, take it from me: You don’t want to learn the hard way how important a data backup and recovery plan is.