2010 is upon us, bringing new opportunities to jump ahead of the competition using social media. The web is evolving rapidly and those small businesses that identify trends first will be able to stay ahead. Here are four super-simple social media suggestions to kick start your business this year.
1. Get The Local Advantage
Small businesses are often local businesses. Location-based web services let users post "check ins" from their mobile phones, telling friends where they are at any given moment. Foursquare and Gowalla are the hot tickets for 2010, and they bring new opportunities to connect to customers on a local level.
Foursquare, for instance, enables venues to provide special offers to users who "check in" to your business often. Whether it's a bar, restaurant or retail store, you can incentivize these highly-connected consumers to return more frequently. The caveat: Foursquare and its ilk only have significant penetration in major US metropolitan areas, although that's likely to change during 2010.
2. Engage Your Critics
2009 was truly the death of screwing the consumer - and good riddance to it. There are few customers in 2010 who, after having a bad experience, will not spout off on Yelp, Twitter, Facebook and hundreds of other outlets that allow virtually anyone to share opinions and reviews in seconds. One lost customer spirals into hundreds as the message is broadcast to large networks of friends, and re-shared ad infinitum.
In short: your customers are already talking about your company in public forums ... will you respond? If you're not tracking a Twitter search and Google Blog Search for your company name and responding to as many mentions as possible, you're allowing others to define your brand. Engaging your critics - and boosting your proponents - is an essential goal for 2010.
In 2010, there's no excuse for organizations that aren't - organized, that is. Even if you're dealing with suppliers across three continents and staff in two different timezones, there's no coordination challenge that web tools can't rise to. For document collaboration, Google Docs is gaining prominence, and for keeping track of milestones, projects and to-dos, 37Signals’ Basecamp is the foremost choice for small- to medium-sized businesses.
Who knows more about what your business should do in 2010 than your customers, partners and suppliers? Finding ways to bring their knowledge and expertise to bear on your decisions can be a major competitive advantage ... if it's done right.
Starbucks was ahead of the curve on this one: their "My Starbucks Idea" site, launched in 2008, has racked up 80,000+ ideas to date. Isn't it time you mined your network for inspiration? From online feedback platforms like Get Satisfaction and UserVoice to simply asking for responses on a corporate blog or Twitter profile, there are numerous ways to engage your network in your decision-making this year.