While still relatively young and adolescent, the Internet has proliferated exponentially, bringing the world's borders just a little closer to each other; it's allowed for a blue ocean that global entrepreneurs have made billions off of, and arguably just as radically, it's changed American small business advertisement and the way a company interacts with consumers forever.
Online ads have taken many shapes and forms and will continue to innovate in new ways we haven't yet seen, and millions of even the smallest companies are on board. Nearly $30 billion will be spent this year and that figure is expected to increase nearly 30 fold by the year 2013 to more than $42 billion. The universal advertising model for business is simple: the advertiser pays cash to be seen and "clicked-on" within an affiliate website that drives traffic by offering free content; that's it.
But if you really want to be a forward-thinking ad-savvy small business owner, then this article is for you. Here's a small list of the most innovative advertisement tools, tips, and trends that already have - and will continue to - land into the eager paws of small business owners the world over. The list is hierarchical from the earliest ad innovations to today's merging trends and beyond.
It doesn't seem all that long ago when visiting a Website from your cell phone was frustrating: slow connection and download speeds, missing banners and logos, and ugly, jumbled hyperlink text. Boy, how that has changed. With today's phones, consumer have demanded the same functionality and user ability when surfing the Web that they do when they're on a laptop, and phone makers are listening.
There's no denying the move to mobility. While we may still be behind the curve on a country-wide internet infrastructure (South Koreans are downloading an average of 14.6 Mbps compared the U.S.'s measly 3.9 Mbps), we're far ahead in smart phone design and innovation. Two of the world's biggest competitors, Google and Apple, are slugging it out on our home turf for the almighty smart phone and ad market share.
And the amount of work Americans do business using their cell phones is only going to increase along with competition among advertisers, providers, and consumers. But not everyone has a smart phone, and those that don't still want to access information on the go. Make sure that the content on your Website is compatible with most mobile phones. One surefire way to do this is to create a simple mobile Website that can be accessible from the homepage or landing page of your site.
If you're not advertising your small business on Google yet, then I have a question for you: Where are you advertising, and why? Google (could you imagine an "greatest innovations list" without them?) single-handedly made advertising across the town, state, country, and the world simple, affordable, and effective for companies of any size, especially the small ones.
With the roll out of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) years ago, Google indefinitely sealed itself as the elite advertisement platform of this century. The reason is because of its genius efficiency: businesses will only pay for an ad when it's been clicked on; converting those visitors into customers is up to the business. Prices are based on "bids" tied to "keywords" - in other words, you choose what keywords you want to pay for, and you choose how much you want to pay for them. Google's algorithm will place your ads into search queries that contain your keyword, assuming your bid is sufficient.
In case you're wondering what the big deal is, consider that in just 10 short years Google has shook up and turned an entire industry on its head with their powerful, disruptive ad model. With Google, small businesses that open can go global tomorrow, and do it at a fraction of the cost that kind of growth once required.
Just a few years ago, a kid named Justin Beiber was probably playing kickball on an elementary schoolyard and avoiding icky girls with cooties. With the explosion in popularity of user-content generated video destination YouTube, the third most popular Website in the world, Justin put out a hit teeny-bopper record and to date his music video has clocked well over 374 million views. Just behind his video of "most watched YouTube uploads" is a home video of a toddler getting his finger bitten by his baby brother. That video has garnered over 245 million views.
Couple a sharp decrease in simple handheld video camera prices with the world's most popular video sharing Website and what you've got is an opportunity to advertise your business using a new medium anyone with an internet connection can appreciate. Creating online videos about your company, website, industry, products, or services is easier (and more valuable) than ever before. The hook for small business owners is that you don't need to be Steven Spielberg to do it, either.
The future of Internet video is already here. This month, Google began running ads on cable networks across the country for Google TV, the software built into some select LG and Sharp flat screen TV models that have already hit the shelves, allowing users to surf and download from the Internet and use their favorite Apps. The mesh between cable television and the Internet was inevitable, and so too will the changes in the way small businesses think of internet video advertising.
Smart Phones and Location-Based Services
Have you ever been nervous thinking about the notion that advertisements could one day be on your mobile phone? Don't be, because it's already here. The innovation of Apps have allowed for a tiny cottage industry of software developers to erupt into a multi-billion dollar industry that creates and distributes games, utilities, business productivity tools, and thousands of more micro-programs for your cell phone - many of which come with advertising.
So what's changing in this young industry whose sales are projected to surge past $17.5 billion by 2012? It's called location-based services, or LBS, and it's fast approaching. With LBS, programmers have found a way to add a twist to the social networking obsession of consumers; instead of users posting updates on what they're doing, LBS providers are betting users will want to post updates on where they're doing it, too.
LBS Apps are supported by GPS technology that allows users to track just about anything these days, and on the cheap: costs associated with developing GPS products have tanked as demand has soared. You can buy a "people-locater" App on the iPhone for $4.99. This kind of scale has created a niche opportunity for many small local businesses to drive traffic through their stores while driving their promotions, brand, and sales through the roof.
Small business owners can harness the power of LBS by simply getting involved with a few applications and services out there. You can post coupons and give away "points" that are redeemable for your products or services by asking customers to "share" the fact they are at they are in your store, eating your food, or reviewing your business online.
The next wave of disruptive forces in small business advertisement and global consumer trends is unforeseeable and unpredictable. But by thinking ahead, staying quick on your toes and acting early, small business owners can leverage emerging trends and technologies in advertisement and customer communications and interaction to create and contend able Web presence.