Decades ago children learned about neat toys and gadgets by watching Saturday morning cartoons. Parents learned what was safe and worth their money from key publications like Consumer Reports, as well as from local shop owners. When I was a kid, there was more trust in advertising, and salesmen, though still trained to “push” products, seemed to know more about how things worked.
Internet shopping continues to increase, and with that, a plethora of “recommendation” engines are available to help guide us to what we supposedly want. Those of us who are comfortable using search engines, and are savvy enough to do our homework the right way, can often find exactly what we need, from the right company, and at a decent price. Those less-in-the-know, however, tend to rely on big business sites to tell them what to buy.
These engines pose a big problem for small business ecommerce because, even if your company has a stellar track record, the funds many require to be listed or top-promoted are often prohibitive.
Previously Mashable.com ran an article: 7 Services That Will Suggest Things You Like. The top choices are geared toward online entertainment rather than products and where to buy them, but it’s worth the read in order to understand how algorithms are used to tell us what we need to buy. Most services rely on some sort of user input – ratings, reviews, and satisfaction ratios – but often use other unknowns to determine what to display. Even sites that use real shoppers’ data can be misleading.
Shopping engines, and even Google, can be great outlets for smaller businesses carrying niche products. All too often, however, bigger brands and higher priced items tend to be the most promoted, making it difficult for the small guy to truly get noticed.
It’s time for small businesses to let go of the frustration of not having the capital to do whatever they want. Most outsiders will never truly understand the blood, sweat and tears that goes into running a small business. Believe me, it’s the insiders who know all about the mountain of obstacles.
No, we’re better off focusing on what we can do to simply succeed and, hopefully, surpass expectations.
Here’s a few places to start:
- Facebook. If you haven’t yet created a Facebook page for your business, you need to. I don’t care if you hate the site and are trying to send a message – 500 million user accounts are screaming louder than you are. I’ve yet to hear one viable argument for a small business not to create and maintain a Facebook page. As well, I’ve yet to hear any “moral issue” story that would be nullified by maintaining such an account. Simply put, if you’re not using Facebook as a tool to build your business, you’re ignoring tons of potential customers, many of which subscribe to no other social media outlet.
- Twitter. This social engine can help fill another void: letting customers who don’t want to receive email know what’s new and on sale. Some people are opting to follow brands online in lieu of signing up for email newsletters. By using Twitter to post key information, your offering another means to keep them interested.
- YouTube. People in general love watching video. By shooting short, simple videos about your store, your products and things to come, you’re opening the doors to your audience. A short, creative video can help sell you and your products.
- A Supporting Blog. It’s not that the mere act of publishing content will bring people to your site in droves. What helps, though, are shares of those posts through social media outlets and other sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon.com and reddit. While there is debate over whether or not any of these sites push significant traffic on a regular basis, each has its own dedicated users. Tapping into that base can only help you in the long run.
Many people stand by sites and services like MySpace and Google Buzz as well. Of course, maintaining several accounts can be time-consuming and cumbersome. For that, I recommend using a multi-service posting tool like TweetDeck.
The goal is to reach people, and, in turn, have them reach out to others. Content sharing is a driving force in today’s marketplace. Small businesses can reap great benefits, so long as they look at the big picture, and are willing to branch out in order to succeed.