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Biggest business trends in 2013

January 3, 2013

By Steven Strauss

If I asked you to guess what the biggest trends in small business will be in 2013, would you say:

  • The improving economy, or
  • Social media, or
  • Advancements in technology?

And I would say, “yes.” It is all of those. Small business trends 2013 is sort of like the news show I watched recently, discussing the biggest political stories of the year. The top story turned out to be, “The re-election of Barack Obama.” Even though it was not a surprise it was still both  true and interesting.

The same is the case with my annual small business trend-watching column. While many of the trends are self-evident, how they are playing out remains intriguing and important, starting with No. 10:

10: Sitting on the sidelines will leave you on the sidelines: For a few years now, we have heard about businesses large and small alike that have been waiting to see what will happen in this economy, – waiting to hire, waiting to advertise, waiting to manufacture . . . waiting. Well, the fact is, time’s up. After four long years in the wilderness, people and business are moving again. Sales are up. Unemployment is down. The economy is growing.

In 2013, he who waits, loses.

9: It’s a word-of-click world: Call it what you will – word-of-mouth advertising, reputation management, the sharing of posts, or what have you – but what ever you call it, it is gaining ever more in importance in our digital age.

Word-of-mouth used to be just that, by mouth, but today, word-of-click is more appropriate. And the thing is, word-of-click is not just about sharing good news any longer, far from it. Consumers and customers are ever more empowered to tweet, post, blog, and share their opinions with the world, and increasingly, they are doing it immediately, via their smart phone, as the event occurs. But the thing is, people tend to post immediately when they have a strong emotion, and often, that means a negative emotion. And that means the potential for more negative posts about your business is increasing rapidly.

Upshot: It is incumbent upon the small business owner to remain vigilant about what is being said about them online, in real time.

8. Business financing bounces back: The reports I have been seeing lately are very encouraging vis-à-vis business financing. Banks are making more loans, business are getting more approvals, and more options are becoming ever more available. Evidence: Last April, the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) was signed into law, and it has already resulted in an increase in crowdfunding at sites like IidiegoGo and Fundable. Other options like factoring and business plan competitions are also coming to the fore.

And more money mans more business.

7. Social media turns content into dollars: For years, we have heard stories about how great and popular sites like Twitter and Facebook are, only to be followed by a punchline like “Yes, but how will they make money?” Of course it is also true that social media sites do make money with advertising, but even so, it seems that they have finally hit upon a way to take their bread and butter – the sharing of content – and turn it into dollars and cents.

It’s called sponsored content. When someone interacts with your Facebook page for example, the action appears in the newsfeed of their friends. The problem is, it often is gone in an instant as more posts are added. Sponsored Stories allow a small business to take that shared interaction and turn it into an ad that sticks to the right of the newsfeed: “Marshall Likes The Crabshack.”

This sort of advertising of shared content by people you know is cropping up all over and is a powerful way to turn friendly recommendations into powerful, long-term testimonials.

6: The smartphone wins: For years we have wondered – should we advertise online, and if so, how? What about social media advertising? Is TV still the big kahuna? Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner: The smartphone.

According to Business Insider, “Over half of American smartphone owners don’t go an hour without checking their device. However, most app sessions last only a minute. Businesses are going to compete harder than ever to get a slice of that engagement, and make it as valuable as possible.”

There is nothing else out there that has become as important, and as ubiquitous, as the smartphone. It is the medium you will need to master.

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