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Friday, May 21, 2010

Technology and Small Business

I don't know, I'm an old head and always thought about hardware when people spoke of technology.  Today however, the word, or as it seems to be used more often as, the phrase is indicative of software.  More to the point, opportunity in such things as social media, streaming video, and podcasts.

I recently spoke to Brad Oyler, owner of W3portals and W3giftcards, based out of Phoenixville about today's local business owners and their take on technology.  "In 2000 everybody wanted a website. That's how we started the commpany and that's how we grew.  Today, everyone wants a Facebook page because it's what's on everyones minds and lips.  The issue for small business owners is that they rarely get how to utilize it in a productive manner."

Oyler makes a great point.  Social Media can be a very succesful marketing tool, especially for local businesses.  The local business person relies heavily on word of mouth advertising.  Think about 20 years ago...  I used to bring my suits to Nick the Tailor down on Markley St across from Logan Sq shopping center.  The only way I knew about Nick was through my neighbors.  Sure, I would see his store front everytime I passed but even back then the buildings looked like houses and I really got the sense that Nick didn't want to be bothered.  I was one person who got a reccomendation from a friend via a live conversation. After being extremely satisfied I probably told another 10 friends over the course of the year.

Now, according to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends, and those users create 70 pieces of content a month.  Most of that content are status updates which could be as simple as "YAY! I'm happy!" or, "does anyone know where I can get a pair of pants altered quickly?!?!?!?  Wedding this sat!"

If Nick had a Facebook page he is now connected and immediately outsourced to not just the 130 friends of the one person who "liked" his page, but all of the friends that THOSE 130 friends have becasue yo can see your friends activity!  So what took Nick about a year to get 10 referals from me would get him possibly thousands in one status update that someone else likes!  Oh and the best part...  It's free!

Facebook isn't your only option either.  Twitter has become increasingly popular as people become more dependant on their mobile devices.  Being on the go and having the ability to access the web, email and such is great technology and allows for a better way of life (some would argue more complex, but that's another post).  Twitter allows you to open and account and in 75 characters or less tell everyone about what you are doing.  How that works is people "follow" you and recieve all of your messages as you put them out there.

Twitter is a very useful tool for small business.  You can communicate and broadcast any information you like to your followers.  If you sell hoagies and are having a slow day and want some more traffic, send out a tweet letting everyone know that you are having a special tonight! Free bag of chips, or half off 4 sandwiches or more, or whatever value prop you can think of.  Things like these were never available before because the lack of ability to communicate in an efficient manner didn't exist.  Today, it does and there should be no excuse for not at least researching the capabilities and opportunities it offers as a marketing tool.

The strains on the local business person are many.  Time, budget, resources, and even know how are stressed at every corner.  There is help out there.  Utilizing facebook is easy and fun.  It may be time consuming and as it gets more popular there are rules that are going to be implemented, but the use of this "technology" (there's that PHRASE again) is tatamount to having been able to hire a corporate marketing company to run a $10,000 ad campaign 15 years ago.

Do your research, find out about what works, and get those fan pages and twitter accounts up.  It will be the most effiecient marketing campaign you have ever done and, when done correctly and utilized to it's fullest, offer the best ROI you will have ever received.

If you have any questions on how to best utilize Facebook or Twitter, go speak to a teenager or college student.  This demographic know the language and understand how it works.  If you still have questions...  email me or leave a comment here.

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