Feeds

back to article Wake up, small biz: Learn to speak internet

Today I wanted to buy a metal business card case I could carry around in my pocket. I asked Google Maps politely if it knew where in Edmonton I could find such a widget, preferably on the way home. Google didn't have the faintest clue where I could get such a thing, no matter how delicately I phrased the request. I eventually …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Silver badge
Pint

Facebook

The internet yes, but I hope you a wrong about Facebook

11
0
FAIL

Where's the data?

"Corporate presence on Facebook is the be-all and end-all of corporate discoverability to a certain segment of the population. Even if you have your own webpage, they'll only ever find that page if it is linked to in some fashion through Facebook."

All very nice: but if you can't prove it, its just an unverified POV.

6
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Gold badge
WTF?

Re: Where's the data?

Sounds like a direct lift of some fairly desperate PR from Farceb0rk to me.....

Last I heard on that subject was from some company who'd drunk the kool-aid and set up a serious facebum presence (with pretty videos 'n games 'n shit), resulting in a goodly number of "likes" and fuck-all by way of actual sales.

Unfortunately real, non dotcom, businesses run on cash and sales rather than hype and page impressions.

0
0

Lets be honest......

This relates very well to B2C (Business to consumer (customer/client) but is less applicable to B2B businesses. I would love to see one of my clients with a £250k+ budget go trawling Google for a company they have never heard of, to provide a business critical solution. Mind you I do run a boutique business...........

0
0
Thumb Down

Facebook not as important as it might seem

"Social media sites have become the internet for many people. Corporate presence on Facebook is the be-all and end-all of corporate discoverability to a certain segment of the population. Even if you have your own webpage, they'll only ever find that page if it is linked to in some fashion through Facebook."

Counterpoint: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-17/f-commerce-trips-as-gap-to-penney-shut-facebook-stores-retail.html

“There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop ... But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

People just don't use social media the way marketers think they do. In fact I'd hazard a guess that most people on social media sites have no interest in doing anything besides talking at people about what they're doing.

And I can say for sure that while I know people who have Facebook as their default home page and spend much of their online time there, I know NOBODY of any age group or demographic who *only* uses social networking sites.

5
0
IT Angle

$10 business card holder

So when you found the product you were looking for, was it in the sort of store that would be well served spending $$$$ to build a searchable/indexable website version of their catalog/inventory, to have someone create (and keep current!) a Facebook page, and to research Google Search & Maps and Bing and make sure that Sally's Stationary Store comes up right alongside Staples and Office Depot? That would get Sally what, the pleasure of knowing you didn't have to go too far out of your way to bring them your $10? There's money to be made giving Sally that hip feeling sure, but you could just sell her some wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men to put on the roof and get Sally a similar result, quite possibly even more people would notice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtespeLin2c

1
1
Trollface

Re: $10 business card holder @Mike

I know, there are so many businesses out there that sell things for less than $10 that don't make enough money to build a website, they're just for people who sell stuff at over $300 <strike and delete to value you think makes a profit>

Thank god there are no websites by Aldi, Tescos, Sainsburys, Maplin, Staples, Amazon . . . .

Never worked at the sharp end of retail, have you . . . ?

nK

0
0

The problem isn't the lack of uptake of new technologies....

...it's the inability to use existing technologies simply because they're old.

What's so difficult about opening that old phone book and looking for some office supply stores?

Personally, when I'm trying to find out something about a company, their products and/or services, Facebook has never failed to be a complete and utter waste of time. A not-so-old-fashioned website is the way to go.

1
0
Bronze badge

eye of the beholder

Trevor, as I’m among the declining generation of individuals for whom instant gratification is not the norm (and indeed, for whom instant gratification approaches anathema), my viewpoint differs somewhat from the one that was expressed in the article.

In my view, the article’s subhead should be changed slightly: “… — or lose your potential customers”. If I were a regular customer of a shop that might sell metal business card cases, I would likely call that shop first to see if they had such an item in stock. Were you previously a customer of the three suboptimally sited shops that you were able to locate via your Web search? If not, then they lost out not on custom, but on potential custom; and that was because of where their bricks were mortared, not because of their insufficient Web presence.

Your observation on social media sites such as Facebook “being the Internet” for many people would have been equally applicable to CompuServe and AOL in the past. If retailers then didn’t establish presences on those sites and still managed to thrive somehow, then they could be seeing Facebook et al. now in the same light.

Since I live in a rural area, my willingness to travel 15 km or more — or rather, my willingness to travel in a rural area for the time equivalent of 15 km or more in an urban area — likely varies from that of someone who lives in an urban area. Different horses for different courses, and all that.

I do agree on the discovery of the value of time by many consumers; perhaps that has helped some to realise that the old saying “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is not exclusively focused on material items.

0
0
Gold badge

@Irony Deficient

No sir, I was not a customer of any of these shops. Indeed, I approached the entire exercise having - quite literally - not the first clue where I might buy such an item. I had never in my life purchased a business card holder. I have zero recollection of ever having seen them in a store when I was there. (I may have seen them, but I obviously didn't retain their presence.)

The business card holder is only one example. I have several hundred more. (A dozen or so related to trying to find the right $item for $task relating to basement renos I am currently involved in.)

So there’s this thing. I have never before used one in my entire life. My circle of friends has never before used one. We have (collectively) no idea where to go to get such a beast. Where do we start? I ask Google Maps. (It works about 50% of the time.) My friend asked Siri. We then fell back to Google proper.

But without the interwebs, buggered if I would even know where to start looking.

As it turns out, there are in fact several shops right along my route home that could have provided me with the widget I sought. (Pointed out to me by my neighbour when I discussed this with him last night.) Indeed, I probably would have ended up dropping upwards of $500 at these stores to get all the widgets I needed.

Instead, I spent about $750 yesterday getting not only those widgets, but other useful things like “micro USB cables, additional cables for my Galaxy Tab” and so forth. I loathe shopping. But I’ll do it when I have to. I don’t exactly “bargain hunt” by driving across the city to save $5 on something. I save up a list of items I need to get until something forces my hand – in this case, getting a card case – and I finally go forth and pick up the things I need.

The example used is really only one of many; and the hell of it is, I’m not one of the “instant gratification generation.” But my day job has become ever more focused on building services and technologies to satisfy them.

1
0
Thumb Up

Re: @Irony Deficient

Well put, Trevor. You put it so much better than I did in my reply to a few posts before.

It's just not the product, but the attention you need. Even the amount of times I've gone to buy something and the closest shop hasn't had it in at that point (through finding them on the internet) and then thought (in your case) "oh, I didn't know there was an independent stationery shop there".

nK

0
0

Dollar Store / Office Supply Store

Does Edmonton not have any dollar stores or office supply stores?

I think that it was a mistake to use such a cheap item as your example.

1
0
Gold badge

@Andrew Stevenson

Bizarrely, the office supply stores don't seem to carry any that aren't somewhere in the $60 each range. (Staples does claim to be able to sell one to me through the online store, but apparently lacks the ability to tell me if they have it in stock at any given location.) This might be a dollar store item; but to be honest, I can’t remember ever having been in one in ~15 years…

0
0

Re: @Andrew Stevenson

you should probably try it. I'm with Andrew - my first response to questions of the form "I wonder where I can buy $SLIGHTLY_UNUSUAL_AND_LIKELY_CHEAP_THING" is invariably 'check the dollar store'.

0
0
WTF?

IPM?

Google page one results for that are all over the place so what is it?

0
0
Gold badge

Re: IPM?

Search for it as "Internet Presence Management." Basically, it is a catch all term covering every type of internet-based marketing you can imagine, combined with business analytics, reputation monitoring and other such things.

Beyond just marketing, it covers how your company presents itself to customers. Do you offer real-time inventory? Do you have a social media presence? What kind? Flat-out P.R., or an EasyDNS-style Twitter-as-another-vehicle-for-tech-support actually useful approach to social communication.

What do people say about you on the internets? Are you on Ripoff Report? Are people saying mean things about you on forums, social media, and so forth? What are they saying? Are their complaints legitimate, or sour grapes?

Throw science and statistics at it too. We know that people predominantly like to whinge and complain, but rarely say a nice thing unless pressed. We’ve a few decades of studies to tell us what the percentages are like on that, so build some crawlers and scrapers to trawl about the internets and see how you really are doing.

Do you hire companies like Freeform Dynamics to gather hard stats on how your company is perceived, what customer demand is and so forth? If you are a software firm, do you run programs similar to the Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program? What avenues exist for customers to provide feedback on your products and services?

The way I like to think of it is this: there is a concept amongst the types called “devops.” Where development and operations are fused into a single department in an attempt to eliminate inefficiency and promote agility.

Proper IPM is the extension of devops to marketing and enterprise resource planning. Using IT, statistics and proper science to monitor corporate online presence and in turn use that to make decisions about everything from future marketing to inventory management.

As always however, YMMV depending on whom you hire for IPM.

0
0
Gold badge
FAIL

Re: Re: IPM?

IPM is one of the overhead costs associated with the practice of knocking $10 business card holders out for $60 through an "online presence" to, er, mug punters........

You want cheap? Go shopping the old-fashioned way in the stores that don't pay for this shit and where new carpet is considered an excessive overhead.

Actually, my first reaction to this was; "If I wanted a bit of tat like that and was forced to shop online, I'd try eBay". I just did and a rather nice brushed stainless steel one comes in at 99p from Hong Kong (1.09 to have it shipped to your door). Before there was an internet, not all stores were in the same place and none stocked everything, so you had to shop around and use a bit of basic common sense to look in the right places. Guess what? The internet's the same.......

0
0

Im sure I am not alone in feeling that the importance of facebook twitter et al is over stated..

Its usefulness is very limited as its appeal

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Let me try even though I don't use them

Facebook and Twitter provide a near-zero-cost way to create a frequently-updated web presence that can push new information to customers.

In addition the facilities provided by social media networks can help provide rapid advertising by word-of-mouth .

0
0

Yes and no

I disagree with the assertion and FB - perhaps because I loathe the thing - but do agree with the general thrust that small businesses are internet-invisible (certainly in Scotland).

Having had a lot of exposure to the 'net when in the USA I developed the habit that, if I was looking for something - food, fuel, wine, gifts, clothing - I'd look on the internet for the nearest sources. On coming home to Scotland I had to quickly drop the habit because if the source wasn't A) in Glasgow or Edinburgh (I'm only exaggerating a little there) and B) a national/international chain (not exaggerating much more here) it wasn't going to be on the 'net.

0
0

farcebook

Back in the dark ages, they produced this massive book called the Yellow Pages. I believe they have a website...seems to list local businesses and everything.

http://yell.com

Obviously your iThing mob are too stupid to use it since it doesn't twitter or have social integration.

1
0

Let me guess..

You are under 30 years old. Right?

1
0
Stop

You're believing it doesn't make it so

Whitter's right. This is nothing but uninformed personal opinion. Just because you want everything online does not make the lack of such a business fail. Personally I'm more inclined to trust the opinion of the actual SME owners. If they thought it made good business sense they'd do it.

0
0

I wish he was right

This morning, I was forced to spend 3 hrs with a few thousand people who obviously enjoy nothing more than inner city traffic and aimlessly wandering around in malls. At some point, I overheard a conversation between 2 young women who couldn't find a particular shop. One of them carried an iPad so I suggested to open Safari and google for *Shopname - City*. "Hey, that's a neat idea !" she said . . .

0
0
Gold badge

Getting around the character limit...

For those that believe the opinions expressed in my article are uninformed, I have put together a brief overview of some of the key research points that have led me to the understanding expressed here. If you do indeed care about how I arrived at these conclusions, it is worth a look.

Off topic, and for the record: I am no fan of Facebook, nor of social media in general. I will use it - even profit from it - when I must. I recognise its importance to the generation that is succeeding my own.

But I am also aware of the science surrounding confirmation bias, including the concept of disconfirmation bias. I am aware of the concept of false consensus, and how it even applies in situations where we wouldn't expect it to.

Allowing my own dislike for social networking - or the “hive mind” on El Reg/Ars – to influence my perceptions of the real world uses of these technologies by other people would place me at a disadvantage. I have no interest in placing myself at a disadvantage.

Thus if I wish to get ahead I must put effort into perceiving the world as it is. Not as I – or the hive mind on the websites where I spend the bulk of my leisure time – would like it to be.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Getting around the character limit...

OK, I've read your post and I'll change my response from uninformed to misinformed. The problem is that you're drawing inferences from very little data. The rise of facebook et al is uncontroversial, so is the rise of mobile use. Going from there to the stament that SME's that don't engage online and with reputation management (which is what your IPM really is) is an unjustifiable leap. Nowhere in your post do you describe any research that points to business's increasing sales as a result of, say, a facebook presence. As I said, simply wishing everyone was online does not make it a good idea and nor does it make it sound business strategy. The real answer is 'It depends'. It depends on where you are, what you sell and what your target demographic is. Setting up and maintaining an online presence (properly) is not a zero or even low cost activity so there needs to be clearly defined benefits not merely the hand-waving of 'you're missing all the people on facebook'.

1
0
Gold badge

Re: Re: Getting around the character limit...

I never said this applied to every single business, or every single customer. However, if you are trying to reach the 18-32 demographic (which by far most business are) then being online – and social! – matters.

Quite frankly, the demographics that aren’t online and don’t use the net for product/brand research and which don’t use social media are shrinking. Partly because more people are getting online (and social) and partly because holdouts are dying of old age.

Social media is so important to an increasing % of consumers that it legitimately matters for most businesses. It most certainly is key to one critical demographic, and the importance of it is increasing.

This is not merely my opinion; this is the opinion of quite a few prominent economists, (one of whom was mentioned in my post) as well as several industry associations. It is a vital business strategy for most (but not all) businesses. Facebook/Twitter/etc. presences do provide ROI for most SMEs. You can’t really wish that away.

With few exceptions, businesses that deny this reality will be servicing a shrinking customer base. My professional experience reflects the recent spate of papers, studies and surveys that confirm the above. I have witnessed IPM revitalise numerous flagging businesses, while lack of it has doomed their competition.

I cannot provide you links to every study (or get hugely in depth into the economic side) in the ~600 words I am allotted for my sysadmin blog. The goal is not academic debate on economic theory. (There are other more appropriate forums for this.)

The goal is simply “hey guys, this is the way the world is heading. As sysadmins you should know about it. Requests are likely to land on your desk to support this. Be prepared.”

The concepts underlying IPM are not new. But the technologies – and skills – involved in making it happen are. That is where it matters to sysadmins.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Getting around the character limit...

Ah but you don't qualify the comments in the original post. It's a very black and white piece. Here's a specific example that I don't believe will stand scrutiny.

"Social media sites have become the internet for many people. Corporate presence on Facebook is the be-all and end-all of corporate discoverability to a certain segment of the population. Even if you have your own webpage, they'll only ever find that page if it is linked to in some fashion through Facebook."

There's simply no evidence for this. OK I'll qualify that. Evidence that I can find. Do you have a reference ?

Your statement that most SME's are targetting the 18-24 demographic is also highly suspect. This is likely to only be true in the retail space and even there it's not a sure thing. That most advertising prizes this group does not translate to most SME's. Most advertising that isn't already managed by google (meaning by people who already have an online presence) is by large enterprises.

Maybe a post along the lines of 'if you're a business looking to extend your market, here's a few things you might not know' would have been less inclined to draw flak.

1
0
Gold badge

Re: Re: Re: Re: Getting around the character limit...

Were I to qualify every single statement and provide primary research for every concept, I would not draw one iota less flak for mentioning a concept someone does not like. Centuries of history back up the fact that people willfully cling to beliefs aligning with their personal worldview, even in the face of compelling evidence.

I very purposefully tried to limit the thrust of the article to the fact that systems administrators need to prepare. Whether or not market research is correct in this regard actually doesn’t matter: companies are turning to sysadmins asking them to “make it so.”

It is pretty obvious from your posts that you don’t trust market research. You are pretty blatant that in your mind what advertisers think doesn’t reflect reality. Faced with that, nothing I could ever say - no evidence I could reasonably present - would convince you.

My evidence for this phenomenon comes from economists, from psychologists, from advertising industry groups and from market research firms. It is generally reasonably sound science, commissioned by people who have a vested financial interest in getting it right.

When an individual immediately dismisses all experts, (spanning scientists, corporations and industry organizations) because they personally (based on what evidence?) don’t believe it, the discussion is becomes of a different nature.

The discussion becomes akin to explaining climate change science, detailing how cell phones cannot cause you cancer, or that HIV does cause AIDS. You don’t write a 600 word article (or use one href) about that. Assembling the level of information required to counter every complaint is the work of a lifetime.

Regarding the importance of social media: I see the reality of it every day in my professional life. If you honestly care about the research, e-mail me. But please forgive me if I am not prepared deep dive a topic of this depth 2,000 characters at a time.

Either way, the next ten years will definitively tell the tale.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

facebook as a marketing platform works for my business.

My partner and Myself run a medium size hotel in a popular UK resort area. Since the rise and rise of facebook, the number or our guests that return to us has massively increased since we made a presence on facebook.

with a friends list of several hundred, once we post some information about a upcoming event in the area, its almost instant that we get a boost in bookings.

Elton John announced last week that he was adding a leg of his world tour here, and I posted the info on our facebook page with a link to the page to buy tickets. the same day the tickets went on sale we filled up with bookings for that weekend....

a facebook presence will not work for all businesses, but for some it definitely will... its all about knowing your customers and reaching out to them the best and most affective way. If facebook is it then go for it !

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Is it a case of Facebook specifically working for you... or do you think it's more to do with the fact you now have a method of contacting and interacting with past customers?

I think a lot of people are putting online success down to social media, when in actual fact it's just due to having an interactive online presence, compared to just having a static website that doesn't do anything for you if people aren't finding it themselves.

I'm not saying Facebook is bad, far from it... for the right type of customer it's very good, but as with most things, putting all your eggs in one basket is never good, and there are other ways of interacting with customers for repeat business.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

you raise a good point there, but prior to facebook, I had a forum on my website and I kept up with the latest goings on. for it to work, It took the users to visit my website. I couldn't make guests come and visit the site.

With facebook, the users are there for a hundred other reasons other than to find out what's going on in a Victorian seaside town. it is the pull of a variety of different things that have drawn the guests to facebook on any particular day, all custom to them. Be it play a silly game or catch up with an old friend or see the latest photos of your nieces new baby.. then tag on a little message from a place you spent a nice weekend away last year,

I wouldn't say it was Facebook itself was working for me, but the culture built up within facebook gives an opportunity for a small business to keep getting noticed.

I also must say, that it is much better for us having returning guests, people that we can get to know and tailor things to suit them with minimal fuss. We have many guests that have particular requirements like a gluten free breakfast that when we know are coming can be catered for. When its a new customer it can be a little hit or miss getting it right.

0
0
Silver badge

Interesting timing

Just the other day I read this article which indicates companies are shuttering their Facebook shops because it doesn't work.

0
0
Gold badge
Pint

Re: Interesting timing

An excellent piece, one I thoroughly enjoyed. It aligns well with my understanding of Facebook’s role in our collective social consciousness, as well as most of the science and statistics I’ve seen regarding IPM.

People don’t go to Facebook to shop. People use Facebook (somewhat) for discoverability but hugely for reputation. Selling directly through Facebook will quite likely never work.

0
0
FAIL

I have been fighting Google Maps for ever. O have several clients that their street views are, the newest, 4 years old and positioning pins miles away. The areas they are in have change so dynamically it's scary. I have submitted change requests and wrong info tickets and still nothing. Even when they answer back that there is a problem, Google for all it's professed "up-to-dateness", isn't and not really worth the time and trouble. So I can see why everyone you think should be listed or accounted of, isn't and it's a pain to do so.

0
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

Conversely...

...one of my clients moved about 10 blocks away. They sent out e-mails, posted signs, send out flyers, the works. Google Maps, despite MUCH prodding, would reset their location to the "old" location every few weeks. They got many complaints from customers every time this happened. Ended up losing a reasonable amount of business.

I'll agree with you that Maps is a PITA. But it is heavily relied upon by some.

0
0
Alert

Social media

My wife works in PR and Communications and EVERY job spec released in the last 12 months has made a big point of mentioning 'social media' as a major avenue that they need to explore and exploit. You can't ignore it: Facebook and Twitter are being heavily targeted just like any other way of advertising your company, big or small.

0
0

linkedin

for B2B LI seems to win over FB but even this is packed full of blatant adverts.

Just look at the surrey business network postings. If you drop the social media experts, accountants and web designers and everyone else who only posts adverts then the community drops to around 10 people who are prepared to help each other out. The rest are simply desperately pushing their wares or literally saying "gizza job".

It takes a *lot* of time and effort to run a web presence and most small businesses are focussing on doing the important things - keeping clients happy and earning dosh. I have seen far too many small businesses go under because they believed that IPM,.SEO and other PR bullshit was the "magic bullet" for thier woes.

$work gets most new clients via word of mouth - this is IMHO by far and away the best way to get new business and they come pre-vetted :-)

0
0
Silver badge

"LIKE me on Facebook!"

Funny, I have seen a lot of requests by companies to be "liked" on Facebook for updates, offers, etc. But the reason it is funny is because I am *already* on their website. Maybe it is just me, but I never considered looking for anything like that on Facebook, and I don't really have time to wade through the dross (status feeds, social networking, most forums) to find what I am looking for.

Perhaps the crux of the matter is that of recent, Google's algorithm has been coming up with more and more "did you mean?" type results, so the thing I'm looking for (in quotes for exact phrase match) is listed several pages later after a large number of INexact matches. And you're right about company website database searches. It is totally frustrating when you *know* something exists, but the search is so retarded it won't give it to you without setting all the parameters exactly correctly to find the item. I don't have time for crap like that, as soon as the first search fails, I'm off someplace else.

Maybe this is the driving point - there is a difference between making your database accessible (item==sprocket; class==thingy; category==widget - search) versus making your database *accessible* (got any sprockets?). The first case might be worse than no website at all as it'll confuse and drive away customers (that might have otherwise looked for a PDF catalogue, or, you know, phoned). Pay attention to Amazon's results sometimes. It may not always get it right, but it does try. I might not find a result for "coleen a cockliquo", but if I spell the first word correctly (amazon.fr), it will autosuggest the correct thing. Just now need it to cope with "鬼束ちひろ". :-)

0
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Gold badge

Some research links from my search history...

Facebook Fans provide good ROI: PC World analysis of some primary research.

emarketer does some digging on Facebook for Brand Research.

Nextweb overview of 10 Case Studies in which Social Media provided good ROI.

Really good: Video: Facebook, 29M increase revenues, and exactly how Facebook drives ROI

0
0

Should have gone to amazon.co.uk

Go to amazon search for "metal business card holder" and the first result you get, is not sold by Amazon but fulfilled by amazon. There's all your savy businesses right there. If you can't beat them, join them and profit.

0
0
Gold badge

Re: Should have gone to amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk would seem a little counterproductive. (There's that whole ocean and suchlike.) But Amazon.ca did indeed have the metal business card holder I wanted. Provided not by Amazon itself, but by an "affiliate" company located somewhere in Ontario. I ended up dropping $750 on various widgets and bobs that I had been avoiding buying, but needed to get various tasks accomplished. All sourced from three affiliates.

15 minutes on Amazon solved the problem right quick. Versus ??????q of wandering around shopping malls, dodging in and out of random stores and calling random shops in the yellow pages. (If you don't even know where to start looking for an item, and it doesn't show up in any local search results, you're down to darts on a map!)

Amazon search? Simple, easy, happened to have multiple listings from multiple vendors.

Shopping mall of the semantic, tagged, indexed and searchable generation. Crowds of angry shoppers, wailing children, people with too much cologne and those who fight cashiers over $0.10 coupons simply need not be part of the equation.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.