As a business you should care about social networking and smart phones because at best it can help you grow your business and at worst, it may make your business obsolete. While that might sound a bit far fetched, consider this: eBooks and eCommerce didn’t sound so threatening in early 2000 until Barnes & Noble and Borders started announcing the serious pain they were going through a decade later. And now online advertising is hurting the print media.

On the other hand, if you run a petrol station, you might be tempted to say ‘but how can any of this affect me?’ Try this. The petrol station in the next street starts to twitter its prices and offer discounted products that make there outlet a more attractive proposition. People start to share this information with their friends on Facebook. The entrepreneurial outlet also decides to offer customers a web app that builds their loyalty by offering them points and discounts every third time they go there. And very quickly the pain becomes real.

First things first. Not everyone uses social networks and smartphones, so let’s start by explaining what these are. Social networks (like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – to only name a few) are essentially electronic communities where people can share and find information of interest to them. Facebook, which started off as a web site for people to go share updates about themselves with their friends has evolved into a global network that has assisted in the toppling of governments and dictators.

Twitter, on the other hand, is an extension of the SMS or text messaging service that everyone is used to on their mobile phones, except that it allows the entire world to read whatever you or anyone else tweets, unless of course you only send it to a specific person. LinkedIn allows professionals to share information about themselves. In essence these are ‘publishing’ platforms that allow anyone to publish almost anything – even images and video (YouTube is another huge social platform).

And Smartphones are essentially the new generation of phones that put a small computer in your hand allowing you to do more than just make and receive phone calls. These phones are generally connected to the Internet as well, giving you access to social networks and other Internet services.

The sum total of the above means that information now moves between people much faster and individuals are able to reach a much bigger audience very easily. In other words we are now dealing with connected and highly engaged consumers.

So service based businesses are now sure to have any incidents of bad service  broadcasted to a much larger audience than was the case before where people simply pass on the bad experience by word of mouth. But likewise, good news can travel fast and be amplified too…

The same is the case with product based businesses. Many web savvy people now quickly search for other user experiences with an item they are considering purchasing before buying it. They are also likely to search for the best price before they put their money down at a shop.

And this is simply going to keep growing. So take the time now to ask yourself how you can benefit or be burnt by these trends. Then take some steps to address the situation.

Here are a few basic recommendations you might want to consider:

  • If you have a web site, optimise it for smartphone users as well – take a look at the web site of the Sydney Morning Herald on a smartphone and this will give you an idea of good practice
  • Make sure your products and services are finding their way onto social networks regularly – by simply putting our new articles on Twitter we increased our site visits by over 30%
  • Ask yourself what your customers are doing, or better yet ask them. How do they decide when considering the type of product and service you offer. Ensure you are not being left behind
  • If you aren’t already, start using social networks and a smartphone yourself and familiarise yourself with what your competitors and others are providing on these platforms
  • If you are not already, start advertising online to get familiar with what works and doesn’t
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What social networking and smartphones have done for us

Our company operates across three continents. All of us have smartphones which allow us to constantly be in touch with our customers where ever we are. There have been situations where we have been in places where there weren’t proper roads to get there and yet we were able to resolve customer issues in another continent within 30 mins.

Not only has this modern technology allowed us to do things quicker from anywhere, it has allowed us to reduce our overhead costs.

We get pretty much all our business by word of mouth. Social networks have helped us expand the word of mouth coverage. It has also helped us to stay abreast of new developments as our networks keep us informed of changes.

Our smartphones are literally mobile offices for us. We are also now publishing to our website from our smartphones to keep our customers and potential customers abreast of new information while we are on the move. And by being mobile we are able to be with customers more than at our office. This generally translates into more business.