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Internet presence is crucial for survival of Irish businesses

People who read Smallbusinesscan articles and contributions will know that, in our view, no company can do without some form of e-commerce. Social media is an extension of that.

A fundamental shift in media behaviour is taking place and if you are not ready for it, you had better get started. If you are in any doubt, watch the video that was recently posted in the Smallbusinesscan social media group.

If further proof is needed, try reading any one of the following; Free by Chris Anderson; Generation Einstein by Jeroen Boschma and Inez Groen; What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis; We are Smarter than Me by Barry Libert and John Spector; Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky; and Viral Loop by Adam Penenberg.

A Facebook for businesses

As it is a year since we launched, let’s use the site itself as an illustration of how quickly technology is developing and what we have learned. The site in its original form did not look great. While it was fairly progressive for its time, the current version has evolved to become what is,in effect, a Facebook for businesses. We have forums, user-generated blogs and a community area, where businesses can profile themselves and connect with others. There are also new member groups arising from the site, including Women in Business, Manufacturing & Processing, Management and many more.

While we have ambitious plans, we really do not know how the site will look in another 12 months. We know only that it will be different. It will be better and may use technology that has yet to be invented.

It appears that we are doing something right. We are the fastest growing business site on the island of Ireland. Others are copying our model and we are receiving invitations to speak at conventions around the world. Corporates who want to get into the SME sector are using as part of the iron line marketing strategy, and our users are finding the site very useful. Among our users, we have thousands of ordinary businesspeople who are using the site to identify and help each other to implement continuous improvements to their businesses.

Offline develops online

We have also learned that we need offline events to cement the relations developed online. Thankfully, Ulster Bank has opened up its doors, allowing us to host more and more SME events in bank branches across the country. We recently hosted events in Cork and Antrim, and will have an event in Loughrea, Co Galway, on June 24.

These events follow the format we use online, allowing real entrepreneurs to share their experiences, engage and ask questions with no frills or lectures. As the founders of Smallbusinesscan, we were complete social media and website illiterates a couple of years ago. Now, we are responsible for one of the biggest and possibly, the most unique business portals around. It just goes to show that, if we can build an online engagement platform, anyone can. If you have a vision for your business, try to imagine what your website and e-commerce could and should be to support that vision. Not understanding technology is no longer an excuse.

All about business

While this article is about social media, Smallbusinesscan is about business. Our aim in setting up the site was that our users need only spend a short amount of time online to find what they needed for real business growth. If you are facing a business challenge, you will find help on the site. If you are looking for more ways to promote your business, you will find ideas on the site. If you have business experiences that may benefit others, you have a ready audience on Smallbusinesscan.

For all your business news see The Sunday Business Post online.