In 2003, I wrote the Small Business Bible and in that edition of the book I talked a lot about the importance of small businesses having a great website because back then that was a trending topic. In 2007, I wrote the second edition of that book and included a lot more about technology, and especially the then newfound mobility options small businesses were adopting.
Last year, with the book still selling, my publisher asked me if I had anything new to say or add if we did a third edition. “You bet!” I answered. Why? Because that last edition of the book is lacking any robust discussion of…social media (although I did mention MySpace). So next year the book comes out again with 10 new chapters on LinkedIn, Facebook and the rest.
All of which is to say, this is a time of incredibly rapid change in business and as such it behooves you to keep up with emerging trends because today’s trend is tomorrow’s technology.
Here are three trends that look to be even bigger in 2012:
1. Social media grows up: By now the news that, as a small business owner, you need to get on board with social media is old hat. Most small businesses have gotten that message. But there is a definite difference between getting on board and using it right. What seems clear is that a lot of small business people are figuring out that it’s not the quantity of contacts you get and have via social networking, but rather the quality of those connections.
The beauty of social media is that aside from branding and increased visibility, it enables you to meet new people, people you would otherwise not normally meet. By tapping into those connections, you can grow your business—and not just your online brand.
2. Groupon and its brethren get refined: Groupon exploded on the scene in 2010 and 2011 and it seemed like an amazing thing for small businesses: Thousands of people getting to hear about your business and being offered incredible deals to check you out.
And in many ways it was. Except when it wasn’t.
Not a few small businesses learned the hard way that accommodating a Living Social or Groupon deal meant:
- Having to deal with sometimes unhappy existing customers
- Figuring out how to convert looky-loos who were often more interested in cheap deals than your particular product or service
- Handling the rush
So one thing we are seeing now is both the small business and the deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon refining the model, and that’s a good thing.
3. Mobile mania
Whereas mobile mania may have referred to wireless networks and laptops at one time, today it means that people are increasingly on their smartphones. Consider: Search Engine Land says that more than 20% of all searches are now done on a mobile device.
And that represents both opportunity and danger for the small business owner. Yes, there is another technological advance to learn about, but that same advance can also help you grow your business. At a minimum, small businesses should:
- Make sure that their websites are mobile friendly, and
- Consider mobile ad campaigns as part of their marketing mix
That said, one trend that is not changing is this one: Saying Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you all!