Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Small Business Can Win with Social Networking

One can learn a great deal about the potential power of the social web by reflecting quietly on the comfort in service and social engagement from your favorite neighborhood store. A handshake, a smile, a conversation. Often, the first question being

"How can I help you?"

Strategically, a perfect question.

On Twitter, the question is

"What are you doing?"

For over sixty years, Anthony Dapolito (insert) managed his family's small Italian bakery with passion and compassion along Prince Street near Thompson. Anthony listened to the neighbors, whom often vented about something, somebody, or somewhere. He spoke quietly, offering advice, and over time, he became a man of local and social influence. He died in 2003, and the bakery continued to operate until this past February. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/nyregion/thecity/22vesu.html

There is a new paradigm emerging which will enable small business to leverage the qualities
of "small" to reach and service new customers via the Internet. The social web, and social
networks are going to empower the model. Small business will not simply appear as a store-front, so nostalgic and romantic. It will take form online, and redefine our perception of the "independents", and the freelance expert. The low cost of connectivity, and the abundance web-based digital content, offers an environment for small business to thrive. Storefront retailing
with its emphasis on touch, smell, and taste is being re-invented. The price of real estate for
storefront leases will go lower as the halo of Madison Avenue retrenches. Commerce will be
generated by a series of convergences and balances, online vs. offline, physical vs metaphysical,
social search, realtime news, and closer connectivity between the source of the product and
the customer....Stay tuned...The conversation begins now!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Social Web Strategy: Status Report

Companies utilizing social networking platforms have primarily focused on its use as an extension of marketing and Public Relations. Most senior executives grasp the idea of building "brand awareness" and since entry costs appear to be low, why not? This is about the change.

The rapid adoption of social networking by a much larger base of users, across every demographic, and age group, is creating a new "context" for its use, and one that is incredibly timely given the challenges companies face to reach new customer prospects, and convert prospects into customers. For example, there is increasing evidence that traditional lead generation programs, offline and online, are in a deep state of fatigue...faltering at all points of measurement...particularly "conversion".

Many social web strategists, draw a correlation between the growth of social networking, as a primary communications tool, and growing resistence by many recipients to opening their opted-in email messages from favorite brands.

Using the social web to conduct social media campaigns focused on customer engagement, and prospecting for new customers has now taken center stage. What was just a novel "brand awareness" strategy just ten months ago, is giving way to "front-line" internal communication strategies within the companies, across many departments and team leaders. I anticipate that we are about to witness a fast-paced shift away from the use of Twitter, and Facebook as a general communications tool, to one focused on immediate and consistent contact with customers, engaged, and responsive. To be truly effective, and enable companies to move from social engagement to order transaction, there must be a strong commitment by management to implement "collaborative-type communications" internally. This will take place in many forms, some in a structured and measured form, others organically, and even a bit chaotic.
Its all good, so long we are involved, and listening...That is the world we live in now, and awareness to it is what social web strategy is all about.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

SohoNews10012 - The Social Web and Store-Based Business

SohoNews10012 is a hyperlocal news source reporting news, events, and daily offers taking place in Soho, a neighborhood where we live and work. We launched this news service on Twitter as a realtime testing bed in order to immerse ourselves deeply into a learning process on how Web 2.0 and social networking platforms, could be applied to the needs of neighborhood business. Our strategic interest is to demonstrate the power of the social web to connect residents, workers, visitors, and tourists to merchants, restaurants, salons, sightings, and daily value-based offers. We are learning every day, gathering business intelligence that we can share with our clients, and create an e-commerce business model that is convenient, efficient, and fun.
One interesting finding to date, has been the strong interest by single-store owners to adopt social media in order to secure a competitive advantage for lead generation, and reaching new customers against larger corporate-based brands, who maintain an outpost in Soho, but manage the location more "remotely". The ambient "intimacy" of the social web offers local business owners, more leverage via the Internet, than they have had to date with their websites. The demand by these smaller customers for tutorials, consultation, and updated web design work has been terrific. The benefits are significant. When we speak with store managers in store locations of well known brands, larger entities, we are often referred to the corporate office,
or the PR agency of the brand. This is enabling us to reach a much larger universe of contacts, and enabling us to promote the opportunity for hyperlocal news and e-commerce effectively.
Stay tuned.


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