Are rural MN businesses using the Internet to market themselves? Not yet!

Thanks to Hans Muessig for the heads up on his new research on rural Minnesota businesses and their use of broadband: Assessing the Digital Presence of Rural Minnesota Businesses: Basic Methods & Findings, specifically they look at use of website and social media to promote business. Hans, at University of Minnesota Extension worked with Tara Daun to investigate cyber finger prints of businesses located in MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) communities and a group of control communities. They didn’t ask businesses about their use – they did primary research to see if those businesses could be found online…

As part of a larger, ongoing research project, this paper discusses the digital presence of rural businesses in 23 communities. We define digital presence as any locally controlled webpages, social media, or GooglePlace pages devoted to an entity, i.e., a private business, nonprofit, or government office, within a community. Overall, the digital presence of 85 townships and cities were assessed.

Here are the results:

Across the 23 communities, an average of 42.6 percent of businesses had a website. On average, 9.9 percent of businesses in each community used social media. More businesses showed activity on their GooglePlace pages. No major difference was found between the control and intervention communities for website and social media use.

The research seemed to pinpoint a few reasons that communities seemed to have more businesses online that their cohort communities

  • MIRC communities saw slightly higher use of GooglePlace pages. UMN MIRC business training sessions focus on GooglePlace.
  • Businesses in growing communities have a higher proportion of websites, are more likely to use social media for business, and have a higher proportion of GooglePlaces with owner verification and content.

The report adds that since the study was inclusive, not random, in nature that it doesn’t necessarily reflect all of rural Minnesota – but it does include 23% of rural businesses. So I suspect the rest of the state would follow suit. Check out the actual report if you want to see the list of specific communities and how they fared.

One fun follow up – the researchers used business listing from InfoUSA (a tried a true market research tool) to get lists of businesses. While the raw data from the report if not available to the general public, they have shared it with the individual communities so that efforts can be made to approach businesses to encourage them to learn more about effectively using the Internet to market themselves. As Hans wrote to me, “the important thing is that this is information that can help communities make “informed, intentional, positive choices about their future.”

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, economic development, MIRC, MN, Research, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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