As the internet expands into every corner of our lives, it’s the first place many people turn when they’re ready to spend some money or look for a new service provider.
Considering this, it’s amazing to think that more than half of Australia’s 2.1 million business are still without a web presence, according to reports such as MYOB’s Business Monitor survey. In other words, every second business is invisible to Australia’s net-savvy generation.
You might think this incredible number of businesses without a web presence sounds too high, but you need to remember that the vast majority of Australian businesses are small businesses. Really small businesses.
Of Australia’s 2.1 million businesses, around 1.8 million of them have fewer than five employees. Even five employees might be considered a medium-sized business when you realise that 1.3 million Australian businesses have no employees at all. That’s 1.3 million sole traders who probably feel they have enough on their plate without worrying about getting online.
My local barber, let’s call him Sam, is a classic example of a small businessman who says he has no time for the internet. As a sole trader in a busy shopping strip, Sam the Barber doesn’t really have the budget to spend on advertising, not even a small ad in the local paper. That’s not necessarily a problem, because he doesn’t have the capacity to deal with a thousand new customers all landing on his doorstep at once expecting a haircut and a shave.
There are several other barber shops within walking distance but Sam has built up a loyal customer base, relying on word-of-mouth to grow his business along with the occasional walk-in off the street. Sam tells me business is good and he doesn’t need to worry about things like the internet.
Next time I see Sam for a trim, I’m going to pull out my smartphone and show him something called Facebook Nearby. If you’ve got the Facebook app on your Apple or Android device you can see it for yourself.
Simply open the Facebook app, call up the dropdown menu and tap on Nearby. A map will pop up of the surrounding area, indicating nearby businesses with a Facebook presence. You can search according to business name or category and you’ll see photos, ratings, “likes” and even recommendations from your Facebook friends.
If you’re looking for somewhere to get your car fixed, grab a coffee or get your hair cut, Facebook Nearby is the perfect place to turn for advice from the friends you trust. So, can you see your business in Facebook Nearby? How about your competitors? If people can’t see you in Facebook Nearby, you really need to wonder how much local business you’re missing out on.
How many of your customers would recommend you to their friends if you only gave them the chance? Meanwhile, how many of your customers might be lured away if they discover their friends recommend your competitor on the other side of the street?
Setting up a Facebook Page for your small business is free and it only takes five minutes if you already have a personal Facebook account. Once you’re logged into Facebook, simply visit facebook.com/pages/create.php and follow the steps. Choose your business category wisely, because you can’t change it later.
You might even want to create a dummy page to experiment with before you create an official page for your business. You can hide the page (look under “Manage Permissions”) until you’re ready to go public.
Keep things simple to begin with. Your Facebook business page doesn’t need to be packed with bells and whistles; it simply needs to tell people who you are, what you do and where to find you. When the time is right you can start to share the page with your regular customers, although you’ll be surprised how many find you first as word travels on the social grapevine.
Once you’ve got a few likes you can even create an easy-to-remember URL such as facebook.com/LocalBarberShop. No matter how small your business, it still pays to be visible on Facebook.