Writer: Ms. Keri Collins Lewis, MSU Extension Service
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Many Mississippi business owners are investing in their online business presence as a way to increase their profits, and Mississippi State University Extension Service experts are helping.
Specialists from Extension’s Center for Technology Outreach and the Extension Broadband Education and Adoption Team, or e-BEAT, recently taught more than 125 business owners ways to improve their online presence in an online seminar, popularly called a webinar.
“Small business owners are busy, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the options available online, especially in social media,” said Roberto Gallardo, associate Extension professor with the center. “We try to lay the framework and give an overall view of an online presence strategy, including email marketing, blogging, Facebook and cloud services.”
Gallardo said interest in doing business online is increasing every year, and many consumers start with the Web when searching for local businesses and services. Business owners can capitalize on this trend.
“A household survey in 2011 showed about 52 percent of Mississippi households use the Internet to purchase products and services,” Gallardo said. “There is huge potential for Mississippi businesses to capitalize on this trend by adding online commerce options, such as online shopping carts, to their websites.”
Gallardo said that even if businesses do not have products to sell online, a website can increase their visibility.
“Make it easy for people to find you and do business with you,” he said. “The number of people accessing the Web through their mobile devices is set to surpass those using PCs or desktop computers to access the Web. That’s a huge shift in how people do business, and it’s just the beginning.”
Gallardo offered his top tips for business owners.
“Make sure your online presence is mobile friendly,” he said. “Take advantage of cloud-based services -- there are many resources available online, including logo design templates, business cards, invoicing and storage. You pay as you go instead of buying the software.”
Gallardo said business owners should start slowly with social media.
“Don’t try to take on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter all at once,” he said. “Start with one you’re comfortable with, then add another tool if you like. Be strategic. Be aware of your audience and where they spend their time.”
John Brandon of the Entrepreneur Center of the Mississippi Development Authority partnered with Extension’s Center for Technology Outreach to bring this webinar to sites across the state.
“The Entrepreneur Center’s mission is to help small businesses throughout the state of Mississippi,” Brandon said. “We work in all counties with all kinds of businesses: retail, service sector, home-based start-ups, and light manufacturing. Ninety-seven percent of all businesses in the state are small businesses.”
Brandon said MSU’s team developed the webinar and the Entrepreneur Center advertised the statewide event to their network of business owners.
“We leveraged what we do well with what MSU does well, and together we reached 15 communities and 125 individuals during the lunch-hour presentation,” he said. “The success of this event tells me that there is a vast interest in the business community for this type of training, and that webinars are a great model to help disseminate good information. We hope this won’t be the only webinar we do with MSU.”
Gallardo can deliver the presentation to interested community groups via webinar or a face-to-face presentation. The webinar and related materials are available online at http://tinyurl.com/msumdaweb. Contact Gallardo at (662) 325-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details.