Last week I had the opportunity to ride the train up with Shashi to New York City to attend the 4th annual Small Business Summit in New York. It was my first time to this event and it was a good one with a broad base of businesses represented. The organizers are Ramon Ray, who some of you know from his well-established Web publication, SmallBizTechnology.com. Ramon’s partner in the event is Marian Banker of Prime Strategies, a consulting firm that works with small businesses.
Two things struck me as interesting. Navigating the recession and the use of social media. Because we have been in a recession since December 2007 it is no surprise that people are trying to be creative and survive this downturn to emerge leaner and meaner. What surprised me is how much it came into almost every presentation given and question that was asked. During the last recession, Elance survived by focusing on serving the staffing needs of large businesses. This time around, Elance appears squarely focused on serving small businesses.
As for Social Media, I was surprised how many companies still haven’t put up a blog or don’t know the first thing about what to do. Living in my little echo chamber I express my surprise, but I shouldn’t be. It took many people years to put up a web site and still many people do it with a few web pages and not much effort to make it look good. The difference with blogs and using other social media tools is that it is cheap and easy to setup, it actually helps your web site with search engines and if you are looking to establish yourself as an expert or thought leader in a space, you need to be using social media as one of the things to achieve that.
Gayle Kesten of SmallBizResource captured Bob Pearson, VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell and boiled down his 10 tips for entrepreneurs down to three:
1. Know what people are saying about your brand. You can do so for free using Google Alerts and NetVibes, for example, to track your brand, your competitors, your industry, your name, etc., Pearson said.
2. Find out where the online traffic you want is going. But “don’t try to swallow the ocean,” he said. Go to Google, type in some keywords that you’d expect would find your business, and see what else shows up. Peruse the first page, perhaps make some calls, and don’t try to do it all in one day.
3. Get into the conversation. You can find those conversations by, again, setting up alerts, but also by starting a blog. “Once you do it a little bit and see the value, then you’ll want to put in the time,” said Pearson, who also pointed attendees to Dell’s Social Media for Small Business site on Facebook, which is a great resource for how to use tech tools to grow business and better serve your customers. As Net@Work’s Estrada said, “A rising tide raises all boats.”
As we went throughout the day we were entertained by many great small business stories and even more sage advice that can be found on this other great coverage about the Summit:
Report from Small Business Summit – Part 1