Tip-top tech: Growing business’s online branding can feel daunting, but it’s necessary — and help is out there

Earlier this month, Google representative Erica Swanson was glad to give a high-five to a self-described “dinosaur” in New Jersey, one having the very human experience of feeling like the latest technology was passing him by.

The small business owner expressed hesitance to Swanson about attending the company’s “Grow with Google” event in Long Branch, which aimed to provide local businesses with tips about search engine optimization and advertising analytics on Google’s digital platforms.

Swanson, leader of community engagement for the major tech firm’s global training initiative, said the business owner came away feeling a lot more confident about learning these modern business skills — hence the high-five.

Because no business wants to suffer extinction — and because companies like Google are making it easy by offering free workshops to shore up on skills — the new year is a better time than any to follow in that business owner’s footsteps.

Take, for example, YouTube, a focal point at Google’s Long Branch event. Today, about 73% of adults in the United State use the platform, according to Pew Research. That makes it more popular than Facebook (at 69%). 

YouTube’s figures improve considerably when just weighing younger population groups. Its own studies have highlighted that YouTube reaches more millennials than any television network.

Brands are also using this video content platform to take advantage of more consumers relying on it to research products they’re purchasing.

“And, in general, small businesses using digital tools are seeing revenue growth at four times a faster rate than small businesses that aren’t using them,” Swanson said, adding that it was “increasingly important to use these tools to connect with and grow customer loyalty.”

What Google’s representatives hear as they travel the country delivering workshops like the one they did at a public library in New Jersey is that small businesses understand all that. They know having a presence on the latest digital platforms is important, Swanson said.

Attendees of Google’s free workshop at a public library in Long Branch celebrate their new-found confidence learning digital platform tips and tricks to help boost their businesses. ­

But, like the New Jersey small business owner Swanson spoke with, many find it daunting to stay up to date.

“They might not know where to get started,” she said. “They might have hesitation about where to get started in learning these new skills. Realistically, these aren’t the kinds of things we learned in school. People have tended to learn them as they’re building their businesses.”

But it doesn’t have to be complicated, Swanson says. 

One of the easiest things to do is claim a business profile on Google. These profiles are what allow businesses to be discovered online and learn details such as operating hours. And about 80% of American shoppers who visit a store in a given week say that they searched it online first, Swanson said.

When Google hosted its YouTube-focused tutorial in Long Branch, some similarly practical advice emerged. 

Laura Vitale, who leveraged YouTube to transition from a passion for cooking at her family’s restaurant to a YouTube channel with more than 3.5 million subscribers, talked about how when she was trying to decide what kind of content to create, she went into YouTube and used its auto-complete feature in its search-box to understand what people were looking for.

“She’d type, ‘How to cook a …,’ and learned what people were searching for that way,” Swanson said. “That’s a great example of how small business owners are using YouTube and Google tools to run their business really efficiently and effectively. They’re using data and insight from Google analytics to optimize their business accordingly.”

Those are the sorts of ideas that tech companies such as Google are hoping business owners — regardless of how fossil-like they feel — come away from their workshops with.

“And our hope is also that they’ll walk away feeling more confident about learning new digital tools and skills in the future, too,” Swanson said.

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Learn more about Grow with Google at: grow.google.