When I started Sisarina initially in January 2001, I used a paper ledger, a desktop computer with a CRT, and printed websites out to show clients in person. This was because many people still didn’t have email.
Being at the forefront of building websites for small businesses has shown me just how far we’ve really come. The internet brought about earth-shattering changes in how people communicated and shared information.
E-mail and Instant Message chats brought instant real-time conversations between individuals and among groups distributed throughout the world. Geography and time were no longer restrictions. The internet became a great equalizer – giving everyone a voice – and technologies continue to build upon that fact.
The adoption of websites and e-commerce allowed for 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week content distribution, marketing, and customer services. Social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are tearing down the walls between consumers and producers, and facilitating community sharing.
While the fundamentals of business remain consistent, the tools we use to create, share, consume, market, and participate are changing… quickly.
OLD WAYS: In the past, if my mom wanted to advertise her clothing store’s big summer sale, she would put an ad in the newspaper, create and run a TV commercial, or hand out flyers on the street.
Now, in addition to traditional marketing, she can reach out to people directly through email newsletters, messages to my followers on Twitter and Facebook, or highly targeted ads that surface only to demographics that she specifies. She can create a quick web video talking about her sale, showing the items available, and connecting with her customers.
SOCIAL: Look at the sudden increase in the popularity of food trucks in major cities.
With social advertising, a single food truck operator can update hungry patrons in real time about where their truck is located and what’s on the menu. Customers can virtually “check-in” with applications like foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt and broadcast to all of their friends where they are, what they are eating, and what they think about it.
DEALS: Companies like Square empower even the smallest business owner to be able to accept credit card payments on their smart phones. Deal mongers like Groupon & LivingSocial will send your highly discounted coupons out to hundreds of thousands of new potential clients and social networks like Twitter will broadcast your marketing messages.
HIRING: Small businesses can be more flexible in their hiring. With video conferencing platforms like Skype, employees can hail from all over the world but still participate in daily meetings. File sharing software like Dropbox, Google Docs, and Basecamp provide virtual work worlds where teams can collaborate and monitor projects anytime, from any place.
NETWORKING: Any entrepreneur knows the power of networking. You need to not only meet the right people, but stay on their minds so they will refer to you when projects arise.
Social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, and Facebook enhance your ability to set yourself up as an expert in your field, meet people, engage them in conversation, and stay in touch with them. Cultivating these relationships will help bring in new leads and business.
Stepping back and looking at how the internet has really changed allows me to appreciate all of the wonderful things that have brought me here, 10 years later, and make my business run efficiently without the expense of traditional advertising. Huge love to Twitter, for which I wouldn’t have grown as quickly without. Thank you.
Royalty-Free Image courtesy of ClipArt.com
Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.