Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Will Google Plus Be the New Small Business Frontier?

By: Brent Barnhart on Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Small businesses owners are often pulled in many directions when it comes to how to market their business online through Social Media. We’ve heard about how Twitter can help you engage and acquire new customers. We’ve been told the importance of getting into peoples’ Facebook feeds. We understand how LinkedIn helps small businesses network and create new partnerships. The Social Network as we know it seems incredibly diverse with lots of moving pieces.

Yet now it appears that the game has changed thanks to Google.

With the release of Google Plus, there’s a whole new component to the social web that will inevitably have a lasting impact solely because it belongs to Google. Realizing that Google represents the king of search and the cornerstone of how businesses get found online, what will their Social Media platform have in store for small businesses? Will the king of search also become the king of social?

Regardless of what we don’t yet know, we do know that Google Plus is here to stay. The numbers don’t lie; with over 10,000,000 users confirmed within the first two weeks of release, there’s no denying that people are strongly interested in what Google has to offer in the social space. Those numbers are doubly impressive when you take into consideration that the service is still invitation-only.

There’s great speculation that Google Plus will emerge as the ultimate Social Media content-sharing platform. Businesses more or less cater their websites and content specifically to what works best in the eyes of Google in order to increase their search rankings. Now that Google have presented us with their own Social Media platform, we can only assume that Google Plus will play a role in search engine ranking factors as well. As experts have been racking their brains to figure out the importance of links on Facebook and Twitter for years, we can also assume that content and links shared on Google Plus will have significant impact on search rankings as well.

But as the game continues to change, we can only assume. Content marketers are still experimenting with Google Plus in its early stages, but small businesses should definitely take notice. If you’re blogging or producing content for your business, look into Google Plus as a platform to begin sharing.

Speaking of sharing content for your business, there’s one very noticeable aspect of Google Plus; there are no business-specific profiles…yet. Google is, as of now, discouraging businesses to get on board immediately but have assured the business community that something is coming from them.

What exactly that something is remains up in the air, yet Google Plus’ Product Manager, Christian Oestlien,  claims that Google understands that their “product as it stands now is not optimally suited” to the needs of businesses.  Oestlien further elaborated in a recent video, explaining what businesses may look forward to including “rich analytics” and possible integration with Google AdWords. Such integration is seen as having huge potential for both Google and businesses utilizing pay-per-click advertising, as AdSense ads have been unable to reach Social Media users on Facebook and Twitter. The Google Plus business platform is supposedly scheduled to be released later this year.

Yet a huge hurdle for Google Plus remains, both in the business and consumer world; incentivizing users to come and join. Many people have already spent years growing their followings on Twitter and Facebook, and for a business to attempt to take one or both followings into a whole new Social Network is a rather daunting challenge. This holds true for consumers as well, who’ve invested hours and hours to finding and reconnecting with contacts through Facebook. What’s going to make people move to Google Plus? Businesses may surely be incentivized to join so that they may be part of “the next big thing,” but what about consumers? The initial buzz is impressive, but will the following continue to grow at such a rapid pace? Likewise, will either Twitter or Facebook take a hit as users find it difficult to manage so many different Social Media platforms?

Businesses have committed a lot of time, effort and research into sharpening their Social Media strategies. Google Plus is definitely throwing a wrench in the machine, and businesses may have to really rethink their social strategies in order to succeed. We’ll see later this year what Google Plus offers directly to small businesses, but the future is looking bright as Google appears to be focusing ample time and energy on making sure that businesses get an optimized social experience. Time will tell whether or not Google Plus will dominate the Social Network, but small businesses will surely be taking notice as the platform continues to evolve.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Small business borrowing surges

By Ann Saphir REUTERS

 (Reuters) - Borrowing by small businesses rose at a record pace in May, data released by PayNet Inc on Thursday showed, a sign that economic growth is poised to pick up in coming months.  The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index, which measures the overall volume of financing to U.S. small businesses, rose 26 percent in May from a year earlier, PayNet said.  The index is now at its highest since July 2008, two months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the near derailment of the world financial system.

Borrowing by small businesses is seen as a harbinger for the broader economy because they account for as much as 80 percent of new hiring. The loans PayNet tracks are typically used to buy or update plants and equipment.  The Federal Reserve has kept rates near zero since December 2008 to try to pull the economy from the worst downturn since the 1930s.

Last week Fed officials reiterated their promise to keep rates low for an extended period, but predicted a slower-than-expected Spring would give way to faster growth later this year.  Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher on Tuesday said he expects 4 percent growth in the second half, more than twice the 1.9 percent pace in the first quarter.

Thursday's data on small business borrowing bears up that optimistic view. Changes in the index typically signal developments in the overall economy two to five months in advance.  "If small businesses are taking these kind of chances, taking risks, making long term investments, they are seeing some long-term opportunities on the horizon," PayNet founder Bill Phelan said in an interview. "That's got to be a big positive sign for the economy."

Separate data also released on Thursday showed small business loan defaults at their lowest in five years, tying records set in April and May 2006.  Accounts in moderate delinquency, or those behind by 30 days or more, fell in May to 1.95 percent from 2.06 percent in April, PayNet said on Thursday.  Accounts 90 days or more behind in payment, or in severe delinquency, fell to 0.59 percent in May from 0.63 percent in April.

Banks with improving asset quality outnumbered banks with deteriorating asset quality by four to one, Phelan said.  Accounts behind 180 days or more, or in default and unlikely to ever get paid, fell to 0.75 percent of total receivables in May, from 0.77 percent in April, according to PayNet, which provides risk-management tools to the commercial lending industry.