For most, January is a depressing month of diets, darkness
and demotivation, but not for some of Britain's small businesses, who took to social media this month to share their optimism about jobs, investment and available support.
That's what The Daily Telegraph Business Tracker found when it analysed the Twitter posts of 25,000 British firms and businesspeople between Jan 1 and Jan 22.
Compiled by insight company, Impact Social, the tracker revealed
that small businesses have more to be happy than worried about this month, with 20pc of the 8,000 tweets shared between those dates containing a positive sentiment.
Just 14pc of tweets were negative and 66pc were neutral
(messages without any sentiment attached, such as January sales promotions).
Of the positive tweets, a quarter (26pc) contained excitement about new roles to fill, with many companies posting job vacancy ads via the social media website.
Another quarter (26pc) praised the country's start-up-friendly environment and referenced the free courses that are available to businesses that need help on issues that worry many at the beginning of a new year: taxation, access to funding and, specific to 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on May 25 and will impact how companies collect and manage customer data.
Small businesses were also keen to encourage each other under the "new year, new you" mantra; one in 10 positive posts contained motivational language alongside links to articles about successful entrepreneurs with inspiring stories to tell.
Finally, 10pc of approving tweets were from firms that had secured new investment – successful crowdfunding campaigns, for example.
According to the tracker, tweets of a gloomy sentiment used language of fear and doubt. Nearly half (44pc), for instance, spoke about Brexit uncertainty, with the majority of these tweets referencing concerns about the future of UK-EU trade. However, it's worth noting that 9pc of positive tweets mentioned Brexit opportunities.
Meanwhile, 12pc spoke angrily about the recent collapse of Carillion, with jobs and livelihoods on the line at thousands of small subcontractors.
And 15pc of pessimistic posts mentioned a concern for either inflation or negative wage growth, but, as Will Brown of Impact Social says:
"There wasn't evidence in the data of any real impact of these on UK small business during this period; it's more of a perpetual fear.
"The onward march of artificial intelligence and automation
[8pc of negative tweets] is similar; there's a fear of the unknown."
Businesses, he says, need clear guidance and help from government in these areas: "Fear is not a healthy trait; it only fuels hesitation."
One in 10 small firms that tweeted negatively about their start to the year mentioned late payments.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), wants 2018 to be the year that the government makes
progress in tackling this poor payment practice: "Following Carillion's collapse, it's unsurprising that the issue of late payments is on the minds of small business owners.
"It continues to be a big issue for small firms.
"Our own research shows that, on average, 30pc of payments are typically late, while the average value of each late payment stands at £6,142.
"This must change; small businesses deserve to be paid promptly."
The Daily Telegraph Business Tracker is a piece of analysis compiled by Impact Social.
It tracks the Twitter messages of 25,000 British companies and businesspeople, searching their public posts for indicators
of their sentiment towards the state of the economy, their own business performance, and their reaction to government policies.
Between Jan 1 and 22, they had tweeted a total of 8,000 times.
Those aggregated search results are then analysed manually by
Impact Social's researchers to assess whether the messages are positive, negative or neutral.
That process also strips out posts that are promotional, leaving only the businesses' actual opinions on the topics in question.
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