To the Future and Back

If I had a DeLorean like Michael J. Fox did in the movie Back to the Future, I would fly back in time to the early days of the website. It would be interesting to watch how people and businesses reacted to this “new technology.” The internet, or “World Wide Web” as some people would say, opened the virtual door for businesses of all types. It allowed 24/7/365 access to information regarding your business. A website was an extension of your physical business that had the potential to lead to an increase in sales, traffic, and customer service, among others. A website is especially valuable for small business owners and nonprofits because it offers them the same opportunity to attract an audience compared to traditional marketing and advertising where abundant monetary resources of large companies usually puts them ahead of the game.

What the website has done for small businesses and nonprofits in the heyday, social media is – or better yet, has already done – today. There are hundreds of success stories out there. From food cart owners using Twitter to keep followers up-to-date on their location and menu to nonprofit organizations using Facebook to keep people and potential donors involved with their cause – social media has benefited the everyday entrepreneur and nonprofit.

What is it though about social media that makes it so attractive among businesses big and small? You can say social media – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs…some of the bigger ones – provide a great online platform to market your product and/or service. Or maybe it’s because social media is what people are using these days which is why you should be where your audience is at. There are lots of reasons why businesses are using social media (and succeeding), but it all comes down to this…communication.

The website provide businesses with a tool to communicate to consumers. You post information, photos, links, etc. on your website which are all directed at potential consumers. However, there’s really no efficient way for the consumer to communicate to you. Social media changed all that.

No more pressing “1” for english, enunciating “rep-pre-sent-ti-tive,” or being put on hold because the only person available to answer the phone is helping other customers who are physically at the store – customer service is now tuned in to the digital age. Why? Because it’s convenient!!! If you have a question about a product and post it on the company’s Facebook page, within minutes or hours you’ll receive a response. On the flip side, for business owners this is an extreme benefit because it allows them to answer questions when it’s convenient to them.

Your “facebookers” and “twitterers” are all using those online communication platform anyways, so why not be where your audience is at. There are over 500 million Facebook users, 175 million Twitter users, and thousands of videos and blogs viewed each day! These are the online channels that people young and old are turning to for news and more each day. So it makes sense to use these channels to communicate and reach out to potential customers for your business. Online content…this is the future!

Wow, I just realized this is by far my longest post. Next Tuesday, I’ll be leading an interactive social media conversation at the Reed Opera House in Salem for a group of small business owners. I just received an email this morning with a list of questions they have. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to share in person my knowledge on this topic. Wish me well! 😉

Image courtesy of Stefan on Flickr.

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