Over on Facebook yesterday, Ginny Carter commented about a network meeting she had attended. She spoke about businesses who resist social media, and with my lack of internet last night – it got me thinking…
Social media for business is very much the in thing – the buzzword of today. Like it or loathe it, social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and FourSquare and more, are very powerful marketing opportunities.
And yet, many local businesses are still resistant to using social media. I can understand that, here’s a confession…
I am not a huge fan either! I am not exactly a social butterfly.
This isn’t a post about how wonderful social media is and the benefits it can bring to your business. This is all about changes and what you as a local business owner should be doing to stay ahead of the competition.
Don’t worry! You won’t need to set up dozen social networking profiles and try to keep up with them all.
The internet is evolving. Yes, I know it is always changing, but this is another one of those game changers where if you aren’t on board and moving with the times, your competition will be.
It’s time to think about the future and how your business can grasp this opportunity in a bear hug.
To start with let’s look at the past…
In the beginning there was the first generation internet. People marvelled at the ability to transfer information from one computer to another at “lightening” speeds that seem laughable today.
People could search online for information…
…first by following links on websites, then on portal and directory type sites. And then came the advance of the search engine.
The problem was that it was just information on a screen. You couldn’t interact with it. It was a real WOW moment when you could write in a guest book or post on a forum.
Where people gather there is progress. And where there is a gathering of geeky types who understand all these foreign computer languages, there is faster progress.
Soon, the second generation web started to evolve. Interaction with the on-screen information began. Wikis that real humans from all over the world could edit, blogs that allowed you to comment directly on the authors work.
The ability to share and syndicate content arrived. For content producers; blogs, podcasts and video really blurred the line between “expert” professionals and those who wanted to share their ideas and concepts.
More magic for the users of this information – social bookmarking, which meant you could save your favourite web pages. Not on your computer – on the world wide web and share them with other people too.
Of course, then came larger social media sites and the ability to form whole communities online.
The speed of technological advance has been amazingly fast. Who would have thought 10 years ago that people would spend more time online than watching TV?
But, even with all these fantastic changes, search is still search. You type in the words you are looking for and some computer somewhere processes the information and sends you some results. As advanced as we have become, computers do not fully understand context and the meaning of the data they process.
Search engines are going social
Already Google and Bing are starting to take into account what real people are sharing online.
If you perform a search on Google and you are logged into your Google account the search results can be vastly different to when you are not logged in. You can see what pages your contacts have shared.
If you see that someone you know has +1’d a web page, aren’t you more likely to visit it?
The +1 and Google Plus is still in the early stages and who knows if it will take off fully. Google have lagged behind on the whole social aspect of the internet, their “Buzz” was a bit of a flop.
However, the important point I want you take take away from this post now is:
The internet is changing again, you need to start to adapt. Your small business does NOT need to be social online, it DOES need to have a website that is easy for others to share. For now at least anyway.
Don’t get me wrong there, social media presents some amazing opportunities for business.
Social media gives your local business the ability to connect with people on a more human level online. I don’t think I can emphasis enough how psychologically powerful that connection and relationship building can be.
If you are not already using social media in your business it is something you should be seriously considering.
The main search engines already do take social sharing into account when deciding rankings. The effect is small now but, like everything else online it won’t stay that way for long.
Are YOU ready for the third generation?
It’s coming whether you like it or not.
How long will you sit there like a turtle pulling its head in its shell while progress washes over you? Businesses that survive, especially in tough times like these, change and adapt.
They observe what is going on around them and are not afraid to try something different or new. They don’t care if their competitor down the road is or isn’t doing the same thing. They listen to their customers and react.
Right now YOUR customers are online, having conversations and sharing information – are they sharing yours, are you getting involved in the conversation?
What do you need to do now?
If you don’t have a website – get one.
It doesn’t need to be all singing all dancing, or complicated. In fact, contrary to what many web designers will tell you, it’s not about great graphic design and looking fantastic. It’s all about speed, usability and words that work.
If you do have a website – make sure it is search engine friendly, up to date and has useful content that can easily be shared.
Take a good hard look at it. Is it old and tired? Does it waffle on about your business and how great it is? If it does, it’s time for a re-write. People don’t care about you, they want to know what you can do for them.
Pick just one social networking site and give it a serious go. I don’t mean set up a profile and leave it! Take a good look at the networks, choose one that you are comfortable with and actively use it for a few months. Play with it, try things out. See what happens
Download my “Getting Started Online” guides – they’re free just fill in the box below. Or you can contact me for a chat about your local business online strategy.
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-JanIs Your Local Business Ready For The Next Web Generation? by Jan Kearney