At the 2011 CES, I'll be speaking at the American Express OPEN Forum booth about how new business is changing. I live this every day. I've launched two successful small businesses around this very premise: that the social web has changed how we can build business. If you're coming to CES, please come see this speech, as I promise it will be passionate.
How Did Business Change?
A lot of people poo-poo'd social media's rise. They saw MySpace and then Facebook, and then Twitter as being these kids toys. And they were. They saw LinkedIn as a business network, but the first LinkedIn wasn't exactly social. It was a place to share resume information and to post recommendations.
But then demographics changed. Facebook started adding over 700,000 or more new people a day (it's now the third most visited site in the world, pushing past Yahoo!), most of them in the age range of 35-60. Other sites did the same. Social network use in 2000 was around 9 percent for the over 25 crowd. It's up to 46 percent as of 2010 figures. And that means your customers are online.
Further, people use these tools to voice needs and desires. They ask people (strangers and friends alike) for recommendations. They complain (a lot!) and this is all great news, because it means that you can listen. The opportunity to find new prospects and to convert new customers is bigger than ever. The tools you can use to seek referrals and to grow the satisfaction of your customer base are equally huge.
But My Business Isn't Online
A 2010 survey showed that 40 percent of small businesses aren't online in any form or fashion. If that's you, then you've got to change that this year. Want a first step? Get into Google Places. Then, consider setting up some Google Alerts for listening. (Want to listen more? Grow bigger ears.)
The thing is, your customers are online. They might not be easy to recognize right away. They might not hang out in the same places that you're reading about in magazines and seeing on TV. But they're out there. And if they're scattered, you might consider building a place for them to connect and spend time. That's what OPEN Forum is, if you hadn't already thought about that. It's American Express's way of sharing a lot of useful information with small business professionals in a social network setting.
The Frontier is Here
I've been ripping off an early 2010 Levi's campaign's tag line heavily since I got wind of it at a theater. The commercial, if you want to see it, watch it here. What I like about the premise is that we all see the way things have changed in this country, but we all forgot how to dream up new ways.
One of the ways we can change and make more business is to see that physical location isn't the only goal any longer. "People think there aren't frontiers any more. They can't see how frontiers are all around us." That's the goal.
Come see me at CES in Las Vegas, and we'll talk more about this. Are you there? Let's connect.
Image credit: Becky Johns