Like A Rolling Stone

19 December 2006 at 11:40 pm | In Blog | No Comments

One final last move of the blog on small business reflecting a settling in my own mind of where my online attention and home should be.  All small business news, opinion and thoughts on how social media can benefit the sector will now appear at the blog attached to SmallBizPod.  Here’s the link for any of you patiently sitting on this RSS feed wondering where I’ve gone!

Small Business Quote Of The Day

14 July 2006 at 7:08 am | In Blog, General, Small Business | No Comments

Persistence for any business is vital. I’ve always believed that, in small business PR, persistence and being able to adapt and review what’s working and what’s not is what ultimately turns a campaign into a success. It’s about mental agility, spotting and converting opportunities.

But this applies not just to PR, but to any area of business in my experience. Plans are great, but in executing those plans you need to be flexible and fast on your feet.

The power of persistence seems to be wrapped up in a beautiful Chinese quote I spotted today courtesy of the Work For You blog.

“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”

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Blogging Sorcerer’s Apprentice Required

11 July 2006 at 11:07 pm | In Blogging, Small Business | No Comments

The small business blogging magician and master tailor, Tom at English Cut, is looking for an apprentice.

I wonder whether he’s put the word out around Saville Row or whether this will become an example of how blogs can attract and inspire exactly the people a business is looking for?

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Who’s Wagging The Long Tail?

6 July 2006 at 10:54 am | In Marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Web | No Comments

Chris Anderson who came up with the concept of the Long Tail has a new book out, “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More”, which was recently reviewed in the New Yorker.

Why is the theory of Long Tail potentially important for small businesses? Well here’s Chris’s summary:

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.

The New Yorker’s review raises an interesting but flawed criticism of Chris’s thinking. It suggests that it is only the big online names like Amazon, Ebay, and iTunes that can ‘house the long tail’ i.e. the massive array of goods and services that cater for very particular customers, tastes and passions. They are therefore wagging the long tail. In control. An online oligopoly.

Of course, these big online brands are making a bundle of money, but what about search and word of mouth. I know very few people, for example, who browse iTunes looking for podcasts on a particular subject. It’s the online word-of-mouth network combined with Google et al that is the primary guide in this space. Large aggregators of Long Tail content may be the one stop out of town megastores, but it’s the growing interaction and sharing of online communities and networks that means the internet high street is thriving in its diversity.

Britain’s First Pub Blog

18 April 2006 at 12:23 am | In Blog, Small Business, Social Media | No Comments

Thanks to Paul Woodhouse, The Shooters Arms which overlooks Pendle in Lancashire appears to have become the first pub in Britain to start blogging.

The Tap Room is already shaping up to be a cosy, smoke-filled haven to enjoy jokes, strange stories and a virtual tipple or two. It certainly brings the place to life, even if you’re not a local and “if you don’t like it, you can always f**k off somewhere else,” to quote Dave Coffey, an icon of a pub landlord!

One of the great things about blogs is that they can capture the thoughts, stories and characters of a place like a pub. Blogs are the pubs of the website world. Places to congregate and share, places where you feel at home.

If, as I think Paul hopes, several of the regulars start contributing, it’ll become a phenomenal record and meeting place for regulars old and new for years to come. Imagine looking back on the blog in 5, 10 or 20 years time. All those stories, half-remembered in pub legend over the years, will be there to be enjoyed by generations to come.

I think sometimes people forget, you don’t have to be blogging to the world for a blog to be successful. Having said that, which pub will you make a point of visiting when you’re next up Pendle way?

Small Pittsburgh Coffee Shop Blog

13 April 2006 at 10:48 pm | In Blog, Blogging, Small Business | No Comments

Never one to ride the wave of a fresh meme (!) I’ve just been catching up on a bit of blogging controversy between Microsoft uber-blogger, Robert Scoble, and the CTO of Amazon, Werner Vogels. Anil Dash at blogging software company Six-Apart gives the low down on the show down.

The nub of that particular debate concerns what hard-nosed business reasons could/should motivate a business to start blogging. In responding, Scoble draws attention to the benefits of blogging to a small coffee shop in Pittsburgh as one example.

Scoble says of the Aldo Coffee Co:

When I visited that shop myself the owner raved about what blogging had done for his business. It turned his little coffee shop into one with an international presence. Thanks to search engines like A9, Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Oh, and he said he never got written up in the press before blogging, but now that’s a regular happening.

Interesting. The Aldo Coffee shop website is built entirely around a cheap piece of blogging software, Typepad. No expensive web design required. The blog itself displays all the passion, knowledge, insight and conversational style that characterises most of my favourite blogs.

So you want to create a bit of profile beyond your local town and have it come reverberating back across the internet into the consciousness of your local media? Blogs can make strange things happen, once people start talking.

Blogging And UK Companies

11 April 2006 at 10:51 pm | In Blog, Blogging, Events, Global Microbrand, Marketing, Small Business | No Comments

I recently moderated a panel on podcasting at the Blogging4Business conference which, as the title suggests, primarily focused on blogging.

Matthew and Bernhard, the guys at Custom Communications which organised the event have done a great job of getting coverage for the conference as yesterday’s BBC story testifies. Good to see Hugh MacLeod quoted on the global microbrand and his work with Stormhoek and English Cut.

“… creating global micro-brands is cheaper and easier than ever before.”

What’s particularly interesting about both the small business blogs Hugh has been involved with, is that they’re not the techy businesses you might expect to be leading the way. Tailoring and wine-making must rank a close second and third to the world’s oldest profession.

What both these businesses have done successfully is reveal their passion for the sometimes arcane details of their craft – a level of detail and knowledge that strikes a chord with geeks everywhere. And then they’ve gone and out-geeked the geeks, SEO merchants and marketers by turning the social web to their very tangible advantage.

Seven Days That Made The New World

10 April 2006 at 5:27 pm | In General, Social Media, Web | No Comments

Interesting leader in The Guardian today on the impact of broadband:

The rapid – albeit long-delayed – roll out of broadband is changing the face of commerce and entertainment, unleashing a wave of creative potential across the world. It is even possible to view the past seven days as the tipping point for a new era.

For small businesses, networks create opportunities. They always have done. If there is a new era, there’s an argument for saying that it’s the small guys who are going to benefit most.

Podcasting The Niche

10 April 2006 at 2:39 pm | In Marketing, Podcasting, Small Business, Social Media | No Comments

Charlene Li gives a sneak preview of the latest survey from Forrester Research on podcast listenership, a story that has been widely picked up by the media including the BBC today.

The 1% who regularly listen to podcasts in the US seems like a very small number. The 20% of US households who will regularly listen to podcasts by 2010 seems like a pretty big number. The message seems to be that despite the hype, those looking to reach mass audiences through podcasting will have to wait a while. That said, a survey by BMRB suggested recently that 8 million people in the UK will be regularly listening to podcasts by September this year.

The other interesting numbers game associated with podcasting is how to measure listenership. Once a podcast is downloaded it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being listened to. It would be good to have data around the proportion of podcasts that are listened to after download. Measurability of podcasting doesn’t, however, seem any less or more robust than measurabiity of newspaper or magazine circulations against readership. How much of a newspaper does an individual read? How often do they throw a newspaper away
without reading it? How many newspapers included on circulation figures are left in piles unread at airports? Uncertainties in this market have never stopped advertisers advertising, until perhaps now when their attention is increasingly turned towards niche audiences.

What’s interested me about media coverage of podcasting, however, is that it’s become increasingly focused on numbers – Ricky Gervais’s success being the most obvious example – equating podcasts to the metrics of mass media itself ie the volume of listeners. But podcasting, in my view, is all about the niche, not the numbers.

While big numbers are important, if you’re planning a piece of mass marketing or want to advertise on a podcast network, they really miss the point that podcasting provides a fantastic opportunity to get niche content to highly focused groups or individuals.

Why Small Businesses Are Scary

9 April 2006 at 11:52 pm | In Blog, Global Microbrand, Media, Small Business | No Comments

Quote of the day from a VC Blog:

While big companies deliberate, small companies obliterate.

Although this primarily applies to tech companies, think what Google in its early days did to Altavista, the same could potentially be said of the disruptive potential of the likes of Skype on mainstream telecoms companies.

While I don’t subscribe to the view that the news print media are doomed in the medium term, there are already examples of small citizen-based media outlets such as Agora Vox, that could cause serious problems for readership of dead tree newspapers.

These days small and fast is so much faster thanks to broadband internet connections. Small, smart businesses really do have the chance to become global microbrands.

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