The digital world is changing rapidly with profound implications for how small businesses are found online, in search, on mobile devices and in social media. Here’s my list of today’s 12 key digital trends with the greatest potential impact (for updates, follow us on Twitter @140Main or visit BizBest):
As Google continues to claim more and more space for paid products on every search engine results page, there’s less available for your business to show up in free “organic” results. Bottom line: Banking on SEO tactics to get found online will keep getter harder.
Search engines and yellow pages type directories aren’t the only places people look online for businesses. More customers are using social media to search for what they need locally (and elsewhere). If you lack a prominent social media presence, beware.
Content (articles, photos, videos, menus, white papers, newsletters, etc.) is where most small businesses stumble. Having a website, blog and social media pages isn’t enough without good content to go along. The simple act of offering a helpful PDF download can produce big results. Content, in effect, becomes your new ad “creative.”
As the power and sophistication of mobile devices grows, they’ve become the “central processing units” for their lives. People already spend an average of 2-5 hours daily on a mobile device. This raises the ante for making sure your business is visible on mobile. About 55% of the U.S. population owns a smart phone, and 78% of them don’t leave home without it.
“Day Parting” is the term for dividing up the day into distinct marketing periods for making specific offers to local customers. For example, a restaurant that makes offers just before lunch. Mobile ad services can help you do this. “Conquesting” is a term for attracting a customer already at one local business, over to another local business offering a synergistic product or service. For example, an ice cream shop suggesting (via mobile) to diners currently eating in nearby restaurants to stop by for dessert.
Facebook is finally figuring out small business (and vice versa), offering new ways for you to acquire customers. Twitter, too. A term you’ll see more is “Native Placement,” which includes paid placements on Facebook and Twitter such as Sponsored Stories and Promoted Tweets.
No single device or “screen” dominates. People move effortlessly between a PC, smart phone, tablet and TV. According to Google research, 90% of consumers begin a task on one device and complete it on another. Content (such as an ad) viewed on one device can trigger behavior on another device. This means businesses can no longer construct campaigns specific to a single device.
Google Product Listings (free) and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have been around for years but have been given a makeover and will gain momentum as businesses discover that PLAs can be far more effective than simple text ads.
Video will continue to explode. Already, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. There are channels for every interest — over a million of them. Seek out channels that interest your customers and try advertising there.
Solution providers are starting to heed the call of business owners who say digital products are too complex. Google, for example, just introduced AdWords Express, a simplified version of AdWords. Details: google.com/adwords/express
NAP — or Name, Address and Phone number — is the vital info that every local business must make available online and on mobile. But if your NAP details aren’t consistent in all places (including dozens of online directories) you risk confusing Google and slipping in search results.
Imagine a customer walks into your store and you turn your back. That’s essentially what’s been happening online when a small business has a Facebook business page but doesn’t actively engage with customers. The importance of building online relationships will grow even bigger.