Small businesses being killed by ignorance of the Internet and Social Media?

It was interesting to read the article in the Guardian/Observer which highlights how large stores such as Tesco are regretting their past decisions to open ever larger stores now that an increasing number of customers are abandoning them in favour of Internet shopping. I must confess I have little sympathy for these retail giants; I have always seen the building of these huge stores as a greed lead approach to business which often steamrollers across environmental common sense and the wishes of local communities to produced traffic nightmares and an unpleasant and time consuming shopping experience.
However, while these massive companies are using their huge resources to reinvent themselves the small businesses in our high streets are also suffering from the Internet but for different reasons. They are undoubtedly struggling to match the prices that the Internet-only businesses such as Amazon can manage but what is less obvious is that they are often invisible to the enormous number of potential customers who start their shopping via Google and other search engines.
Try making a mental map of the businesses in your local high street then pay a quick visit to your favourite search engine and see how many of those businesses have become invisible. Now repeat the exercise using your favourite Social Media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and FourSquare and see how well they have managed to hide themselves from the huge number of Internet-literate shoppers.
I am currently organising an event which offers businesses free publicity and thereby the opportunity to attract customers. The Internet and Social Media ‘invisibility’ of many businesses makes it harder to contact them, harder to make them aware of what is on offer and consequently harder to push potential customers their way.
There are many initiatives from the government and elsewhere that are trying to stop ‘the death of the high street’. Maybe some simple, and relatively cheap, guidance on the creation of web sites and use of Social Media may help them to once again become visible to their twenty-first century customers.

Looking for a job?

Are you looking for a job or is it likely you might be looking for one soon? Conversely are you currently looking for staff or thinking about doing so? Either way, have you considered the impact of Social Media on the process of getting a job or filling a vacancy? Have you, or should you change your approach to Social Media?
In the ‘good old days’ it was all relatively straightforward; employers advertised jobs in the local newspaper, or maybe a trade journal if one existed, and the job hunter obliged by reading the advertisements. A CV or request for an application form then followed and hopefully more letters would flow as the employer and potential employee weighed each other up.
With the growth of email and the Internet things got slicker and we were able to surf our way across job web sites and email our CV or fill in an online form. This made things a bit quicker and easier but basically the process was very similar.
Then, in our usual cunning way, mankind realised there is a lot of information out on the Internet and services such as Google have an uncanny knack of finding it. So, what happens now when a CV drops in an inbox, or someone sees an advertisement for a job? They head over to Google, Bing, Yahoo or whatever and see what dirt they can find on the person or company.
Turning this on its head, are YOU happy that everything you have shared with the world via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare etc is the kind of thing you would want a potential employer or employee to see? There have already been cases of people being sacked as a result of their inappropriate Social Media activity but I wonder how many job matches haven’t happened for the same reason.
So, next time you are about to tell the world you are calling in sick due to last night’s overindulgence, you blog the hidden truths about your company, or you decide to ‘follow’ an inappropriate Tweeter, consider who might be reading it!

How do you use Social Media?

For the past month I have been looking deeper into Social Media, trying to get a better understanding of the various services available and also to see how and why individuals and businesses are using it. I was already a casual user of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but have now started blogging and using other services such as Foursquare and Klout to get a better idea of what is available and what impact they have.
One thing that has really hit me is the amount of time people and businesses are spending on Social Media and often without a clear benefit. Personal use seems to focus on Facebook with some people also tweeting and making business contacts via LinkedIn. Fewer people seemed to be aware of Foursquare but I can see how this service could grow if the number of users increases, possibly on the back of inventive use of its facilities by businesses.
I have been looking at the output of certain Tweeters who are, by certain measures, deemed to be the elite of Social Media and their approach and content can be very different. Some have genuinely interesting Tweets and I can understand their success. Others seem to Tweet very similar information and it makes me feel they are using a database of Tweets including the words ‘Social Media’ which are submitted randomly by a piece of software.
My observations have also made me realise that, not surprisingly, you need to be very careful choosing a Social Media expert to advise your business. The output of some selling themselves as experts seems very naive and it makes you wonder what advice they are giving their customers.
The understanding and use of Social Media across businesses is very variable, some Directors just give you a blank look when you mention Social Media but it is clear other businesses are running huge and very successful campaigns.
Overall I get the feeling it is still early days for Social Media and I will be interested to see how use of services develops. I get the feeling the current use of multiple services is too time consuming and unsustainable which leads me to predict the number of services will contract over time as each expand their facilities to cover the strengths of their competitors. The problem is knowing which horse, or horses, to back. Which service will be the ‘VHS’ and which the ‘Betamax’ and will you and your business direct your time and effort in the right direction?

It’s good to talk, but how?

I say ‘talk’ but I was actually thinking about sending messages electronically rather than getting the vocal chords vibrating; the title just didn’t seem to work with ‘message’. So, to get to the point, I want to send someone a message from my iPhone, how should I do it?
Well, I could send a text and as long as the intended recipient has a mobile phone we are in business. The down side is it will cost me money and, from experience, they may not get the message until tomorrow or they may not get it at all.
How about Facebook Messenger? I can send a message, and even a photo, plus we can all get together and have a group bonding messaging session. Ah, my friend doesn’t use Facebook, back to the text.
Hold on though, after wasting a couple of hours of my life I installed IOS 5 on my phone yesterday; part of the reason I had no time to blog. This shiny new version of my phone’s software includes the new Apple iMessage facility which allows you to send messages! Oh no it doesn’t, unless the person at the other end has an Apple device with IOS 5 on it.
I could spend ages working through the various messaging options available to me but it seems whichever I choose I will need to know more about the person at the other end than I actually do. Is Great Aunt Eric on Facebook or IOS 5, does she (or he, I’m not even sure about that) use Google Messenger/talk/chat or whatever it is called?
We now have numerous ways to send messages to people IF we know what THEY use, otherwise it seems we are stuck with a text – I just hope it arrives!

Are your Social Media targets realistic?

You are spending time and money on your Social Media but how do you measure if you are getting good value from it? Some companies work on numbers and set targets for their campaigns based on increases in Facebook ‘likes’ or Twitter followers, but is this a good idea?
Assuming your business sells cars, you should reasonably expect that as a result of your Social Media campaign you will sell more cars. So, at the end of six months the person responsible for your Social Media campaign happily tells you you have 1,000 more ‘likes’ and 750 more Twitter followers but have you sold more cars? If you have sold more cars can you tell it is due to the Social Media campaign? If you can’t link your sales to the campaign I suggest you set the wrong targets in the first place or set the correct targets but didn’t have the processes in place to link the sales to the Social media exposure – assuming this is even practicable. The moral of today’s tale … Don’t waste your time and money on Social Media if you can’t measure it’s effectiveness!

WordPress ‘Klout’ed

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
The good news; in addition to its facilities for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook Klout also allows you to monitor your Social Media skills on your WordPress sites.
The bad news; this works fine if your Blog is hosted by WordPress BUT if you’ve put in the extra effort and installed WordPress on your own server (like our friends over at then ‘Klout is out’.
I get the impression this is a technical issue rather than a desire to exclude more professional Bloggers but come on Klout, get it sorted!

Measuring the effect of social media

As mentioned, I have recorded the numbers of connections and followers from LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to provide a benchmark for future figures. I shall also monitor traffic to the web site in general and blog pages in particular to see how traffic changes over time, and as a result of particular activity. Measuring the effect social media has on the course of my life is likely to be more difficult but hopefully it will be possible to record direct and indirect impacts on my activity. If you have any thoughts on this please let me have them!

Social Media project starts today

Today is day 1 of my social media project. Now that I have left my job I intend to make more use of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and this blog and try to determine how they change the course of my future employment and life generally. As a start I have recorded the number of followers/ connections I have so that I can see how this changes over time.