In an earlier blog I explored how Technology is the Secret Weapon for Small Business . Although many small businesses are taking advantage of technology, it has to be said that there is still significant room for improvement. Much more can be done.
In this post I explore ideas about how we can help small business to exploit technology, with the onus being on business support providers, policy makers and small businesses themselves.
Social media is free, but it can be a minefield!
First, when it comes to small businesses making the most of social media, there’s a real problem. Social media is a huge opportunity, but it’s equally an absolute minefield. Small business owners are running fast constantly, working alone or in a small team, and just keeping on top of the day to day can be a real challenge. So it’s not surprising that the opportunity of social media as a free and powerful marketing channel can sometimes pass them by. They may dabble, but really taking full advantage of it takes some effort, and unlike larger businesses they simply don’t have the luxury of standing still for long enough to discover, learn and implement social media in their businesses.
There’s currently no formal way of providing people this education, an enterprise education that would have a significant impact on their ability to effectively use this tool (that’s usually completely free of charge) to compete.
Social media up-skilling to achieve competitive advantage
People can often fall upon the knowledge by accident, or they’re faced by an army of people trying to sell them social media services. Could we find some way of embedding social media into enterprise training and business support as a serious opportunity to maximise the profitability of the small business sector? Could we really invest in up-skilling, and continuing to up-skill small businesses so they can achieve competitive advantage?
To do this we, as the support community for businesses, also need to up-skill – are we really equipped to provide this critical knowledge to the small business sector? Or should we hand the baton over to the businesses themselves by enabling knowledge exchange through peer support, that is in some way financed to oil the wheels? This is something I’m keen to investigate.
Business support organisations can maximise participation with technology
Then we turn to communications. Livestreaming and podcasts of events and conferences is extremely rare, across all sectors, irrespective of the technology being widely available. We need to be encouraging and enabling business support organisations, from banks to Government funded initiatives, to use technology to maximise participation in support, by thinking technology first, rather than as a ‘nice to have’ or an after-thought.
Holding a conference in a capital city for a few hundred people undoubtedly makes a difference to those involved. If you could imagine scaling that up to a few thousand people who are able to attend virtually, that could make a huge difference.
Encourage a ‘think technology first’ attitude
Just as awareness and education is important in encouraging and enabling small businesses to take advantage of social media to grow their businesses, it is also critical that it becomes second nature for businesses to think technology first. Businesses need to be helped to discover ways to communicate through technology, to reduce their costs and increase their participation, and be happy to do so, without referring to traditional techniques for fear of losing relationships. By making technology-based communications more common-place, this transition will naturally take place.
Reliable, robust technology infrastructure is essential
Finally the technology infrastructure, broadband, must be robust and fit for purpose. By increasing the reliance of businesses on technology, gaps in broadband coverage, or lower than acceptable reception, have the effect of isolating small businesses even further. For today’s businesses, connectivity is everything.