No Doubt: It's On-Line for Small Biz

Less than a year ago, I presented to a group of lawyers at the Boston Bar Association about the nuts and bolts of Social Media and why it makes good sense to get in on it. Part of my presentation was addressed to potential objections that might be raised by attorneys when considering whether to spend any of their most precious asset – time – engaged in networking online. One of those ostensibly reasonable objections was “gee, only the big guys, like Coca Cola, Disney and Best Buy, are hanging out online. My small business clients are still perusing traditional media outlets for their own promotion, information retrieval and vendor vetting efforts.”

Well, if American Express is to be believed, the facts behind this objection are rapidly shifting and making the objection most hollow: American Express Open reports in the Business Wire that results from its semi annual small business survey show that small business use of social media has increased four-fold in the last year. The release does not solely address social media use by small business – the survey generally examined how small business owners are viewing the economy and whether they are poised to take advantage of potential growth opportunities in teh coming year. With respect to social media, the survey results show that:

Business owners are also increasingly tapping into social media to reach customers and prospects. Four-in-ten now indicate they use at least one social media platform; Facebook is by far the most popular platform, with 27% of relevant businesses on board. By comparison, only one-in-ten business owners a year ago were using online social networking to market their businesses.

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The apparent exponential growth in the use of social media by business owners is rooted in the need to drive demand. When asked about the primary benefit of using social media for their businesses, nearly four-in-ten entrepreneurs (39%) said it increases the exposure of their business.

Social media is a lower cost marketing channel through which business owners can talk directly to consumers, who say they’re more than willing to listen when it comes to special promotions and deals. In fact, consumers said they were most interested in hearing about small business loyalty programs (59%), followed by free trials (49%), rewards or incentive programs (44%) and invitations to new product launches or special shopping days (39%).

“For business owners, social media ultimately should be a two way street. It’s about business owners connecting with customers and customers connecting with businesses,” Sobbott added. “More than 10% of consumers we surveyed reported posting a review of a small business through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, and of these posts, two-thirds say the reviews have been positive.”

Now, it probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if small business owners understand the value of and are implementing social media programs in crazy growth numbers, small business owners also might recognize the value of turning to online resources for finding and connecting with their own vendors and service providers.

Will you, the lawyer or business professional, already be there to welcome such connection possibilities with open arms? Or are you waiting until you represent a one in ten business that hasn’t yet filled out your social media profile?


The Good, The Bad & The Truncated

Now HERE is a novel concept in information consumption: applying liposuction to your news feeds. Thanks to Techcrunch, I became acquainted this morning with – a web app that shrinks long form news articles and RSS feeds into shorter versions containing only the salient(?) points. You can choose whether your abstract is short, medium, or long, but certainly the return will not be as long as the original article.

The app was built in 48 hours, a testament to the developer Jeremy McAnaly’s need for speed. Indeed, the app bills itself as “a.d.d. approved news reading.”

You can either enter the feed or the URL in search-styled boxes, or you use their bookmarklet to summarize any page you happen to linger on. Then you get a synopsis of the feed or URL, with options to see the short, medium or long versions, as well as the original source in full.

I couldn’t resist – I had to run Advocate’s Studio through Willie Wonka’s Mike TeeVee treatment and see what came out. The algorithm picked up on my second post about getting Studio content  at various web locales. (maybe it thought my top article was already the picture of brevity). If you read the content post, you will see that it was eight or so fairly meaty paragraphs. This is what returned:

Visiting the page is cool because I have fitted out the blog with some extra material in the widgets and blog bar – you can get my Mobile App of the Day reviews in the sidebar along with my shares on Lazyfeed and Friendfeed and links to some of my other web profiles via my Retaggr card – I tend to spread my sharing out over many services, so that no one particular place has everything.

The long version contains approximately double the wordage as the short version, picking up pretty much where the short version left off. While this information is contained somewhere in the middle of the post, I cannot really say how the algorithm arrived at the “conclusion” that  this was the “meat”  of the post. Thus, I cannot really say that returns the most salient points of the article.

Nonetheless, much like Cliff Notes, some information is better than no information, if for no other reason than giving you the appearance of having actually read the full work. I guess, with, you have to take the good with the bad.