The owners of a lot of traditional brick and mortar small businesses, particularly those that aren’t exactly dealing in high technology products and/or services, are somewhat skittish around the idea of taking their brand online. The xenophobia is justified, with all the unnecessarily sensationalized news about hacking and other security issues involving the internet.
You, the tech-savvy internet denizen, have a golden opportunity to help these small businesses get their foot in the door. Even if they have no plans on making their goods and services available outside their area of operation, having a presence on the internet is still very important, if only for advertising, community building, and merely pointing out where you are on the map.
The following are the must-have and core applications and services your business should sign up for. Fortunately, most of these services can be had for free; only when you’ve decided to make a more prominent presence would you ever need to spend money, apart from your regular internet bill.
The most basic thing you’ll ever need is an electronic e-mail address. Sign up for one so you can receive and send messages to your current and potential customers. I prefer Google’s GMail for its simplicity, speed, and capacity that you might never be able to fill up. Some very basic businesses might not even need anything beyond email, but let’s go further and elaborate the inherent advantages of the other available online services a business can partake of.
Facebook is the de facto largest social media on Earth. It can also accommodate businesses and brands through their Pages feature, and for a lot of people and small enterprises, they would rather have a page on Facebook than maintain their own. In addition, having a presence on Facebook allows you to be easily reachable by literally over a billion people the world over. For those who choose to reach only people from their localities, that’s also fine, as Facebook’s pages can also be configured to be visible only to specific areas and demographics.
While Facebook is a great place to make your base of operations online, Twitter is better when you want to get the word out on specific products, promotions, and general idle chit-chat that helps you get more cozy with your community of consumers. Its simplicity also lends well to mobile messaging, so Twitter and Facebook are great companions to bundle together to get your brand and promotions out.
As I mentioned earlier, some small businesses don’t even bother with their own website as Facebook is sufficient for their needs. Still, when you want to customize and optimize your online materials even further, nothing really beats having your own homepage that you or your hired web developer can customize. If your company is going to delve into e-commerce, it is almost essential that you have your own site (there is always the option of putting up your wares for sale at sites like eBay and Amazon). Nowadays, WordPress and a multitude of plugins, apps, and widgets are all you need to come up with a very compelling and professional site. Cheap unlimited web hosting is available through many hosting and domain providers, and it is easier than ever to come up with your own site, even without hiring a developer.
It’s really that easy. What are you waiting for? Help a local business go online today! In a future article, I’ll touch up on search engine optimization and how it can further give your online presence a much-needed edge!
About the Author
Stacey Thompson is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, and a lover of weird little animals. She is based in San Diego, California, and maintains her gang’s group blog, Word Baristas.