Entrepreneurs hoping to promote their business are being failed by the giants of digital communication, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, according to a study by IronmongeryDirect.

Research conducted by the online and mail order supplier of ironmongery products invited 10,000 tradespeople to take part in an annual study that examined the marketing habits of trade businesses.

It found that not only was digital marketing used by only a minority of small trade businesses, but also that few believed such channels were effective ways to bring in new business.

While 28% of businesses surveyed had a website, only 7% used pay per click or search engine optimisation to help raise awareness among potential customers. Even fewer – just 4% – saw Twitter as a valuable tool for their marketing.

Facebook was used by 16% of businesses, but only 11% thought it contributed to bringing in new work.

Wayne Lysaght-Mason, managing director at IronmongeryDirect, said: "Digital marketing is still a relatively young industry and many small businesses simply don’t understand how to harness its power to help them grow.

“Not enough is being done to help the small businesses that form the backbone of our economy to understand how best to use these tools. This education is urgently needed to help bridge the gap between these companies and their more digitally aware challengers.”

IronmongeryDirect has created a guide with tips to support professionals wishing to invest in digital marketing, which is available to download from the company's website. It is also trialling education evenings to teach tradespeople basic online marketing.