Manta Offers New Tools to Socially Connect Small Businesses

New recommendation features help Manta's 89 million small business owner members establish more credibility with customers and new prospects.

Today, websites like Facebook and Twitter are the most well-known social destinations for businesses looking to connect with their customers, but one social piece missing from these popular spaces is a connection between small business owners.

Manta, the largest online community dedicated to small business, is a site designed to help small businesses connect and grow through a large online community. According to Pamela Springer, Manta's CEO, millions of people visit the site daily to look for companies to buy from or to partner with.

"We're really fueling the ability to find small businesses, the ability for small businesses to connect with one another to ask questions and for consumers to find resources to buy from," said Springer.

A recent survey conducted by Manta revealed that 42 percent of business owners get their advice from fellow small business owners, and a large part of the Manta community conversation is based around operating tips, where business owners help each other with business issues -- such as how to market your business or how to outsource PR and other business processes.

Manta, which is home to more than 89 million small business owners, uses social business profiles and other online communication features to help small businesses improve their online presence and gain increased visibility with customers and prospects.

New Features for Recommendations and Referrals

On Manta, small business owners can create, manage and share their online identities, promote products and services and also build and engage with an extensive small business network to access shared knowledge and insights. 

Indicative of Manta's popularity as a destination for small businesses, this week the company announced that it has received a $44 million minority equity investment from Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), a leading global investment firm. Last month, Manta.com also launched major enhancements to help small businesses build their referral network through recommendations and social connections tools.

The new Manta Recommendations tool lets people leave a recommendation for any company on Manta.com. Business owners can use the accompanying Manta Recommendations widget and put it on their own website so any recommendation left on Manta, or on their own site, are syndicated through the widget and available in both places.

When a small business owner claims a profile on Manta, he or she receives a weekly report to keep up-to-date on things like: how many people view the company profile, and how many people visited the competition's profile. It also provides specific actions you can take to show up in more categories, more geographic areas, and for more keywords on Manta.  

As people leave recommendations, Manta requires authentication and then shows their identity to the small business owner so you can follow up with that customer, vendor or prospect using Manta's in-mail box.

"As you think about these recommendations you are able to pull from your customers, you can now establish more credibility with new prospects that find your Manta profile or your business website," said Springer, who also mentioned that business owners will soon be able to share recommendations on other social profiles as well.

More Features for Small Business Owners

Using Manta can also help a small business improve its mobile presence because the business profile is available in the Manta mobile app.

"We had more than 750,000 phone calls generated to our small business audience in the month of February as a result of their Manta profile," said Springer.  "We allow businesses to manage their reputations, collect recommendations and increase their visibility online and in mobile and also allow the 34 million people who visit Manta each month to connect themselves with the companies they do business with."

Looking at a company profile on Manta reveals the recommendations that have been left; it presents an opportunity to dig a little deeper to see how a business has connected with other users; and it verifies expertise in the questions and answers section. This is useful in terms of screening vendors -- you can see who provided credible answers.

"Manta profiles can also be used as a prospecting tool," said Springer. "Small business owners will come in, and they have to find certain accounts or prospects in a specific industry or state, and you can find that detail on Manta."

What's the Cost of a Manta Profile?

Most of Manta's small business community features are completely free, and a subscription fee is only required for businesses that want an enhanced listing for better visibility -- both on Manta.com and in search listings. Subscription packages start at $29 per month.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has spent the last decade contributing featured articles and reviews to more than 20 technology-focused publications, including Webopedia and Ecommerce-Guide. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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