The Top Small Business Technology Trends for 2010 - Page 2

By Jamie Bsales
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Social media marketing efforts will need to pay their own way in 2010, and services such as Delivra make it possible to track the ROI of online campaigns.
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Social Media Marketing, Meet ROI

In addition to cloud computing, the other technology hot-button last year was social media. In addition to a compelling Web site, suddenly every business needed a Facebook presence — and then a Twitter feed. Most business owners have no idea if all this friending and tweeting is adding anything to the bottom line. So in 2010, the name of the game in social media is quantifying a return on your investment.

“As a small business owner, you want to maximize the return of the time and money you’re spending,” says Carissa Newton, director of marketing at Delivra, one of the original e-mail marketing service firms. “You want to be able to see who is viewing and sharing your social media content and see where those leads are coming from.”

Delivra’s service, for example, lets you embed a video clip in an e-mail or a social-media page of feed, then track the leads that come from that campaign. “You can see who’s sharing the video and see what networks they are sharing the video on,” says Newton. “You can see who is watching and, more importantly. who is watching for more than 30 seconds.”

Cynthia Francis, CEO of Reality Digital, a provider of social-media marketing tools, sees a continued emphasis on social media in 2010 — but with a more unified approach.

“In 2010, we see businesses moving away from piecemeal social media marketing tools to a cohesive, integrated strategy,” says Francis. “It’s great to have all these points of visibility, but more than that you need to have a plan. The goal of social media is to have a conversation with your customer, and it’s better to bring those customers home to have that conversation at your branded site.”

For example Harmony, Reality Digital’s offering, is an entry-level social media platform that delivers a forum, blog, embedded audio and video and more for a participatory experience for customers.

Cost-Saving Tools Become the Default

Entrepreneurs who survived the downturn did so by watching every penny, and this cost-savings mentality promises to be the new normal, especially when it comes to IT spending. Services that replace an essential — but often expensive — business function will be hot commodities in 2010.

One such area is virtual PBX services, which can replace a traditional physical phone system with a more feature-rich and affordable solution while delivering the side benefit of making your business appear larger than it is. For example, VirtualPBX.com Inc., the pioneer in the industry, lets a company can give its remote employees an 800 or local number that makes it look as if the individuals are working out of an office. The service routes the calls to whatever phone number the employee prefers, such as a mobile or even a VoIP number.

Similarly, Cbeyond, which offers managed Internet and phone services to businesses in 13 major U.S. markets, rolled out the Cbeyond Virtual Receptionist. This cloud-based service helps small businesses project a professional image to incoming callers, routing calls efficiently and automatically without the hassle or expense of deploying an on-site automated attendant.

Protus recently launched its My1Voice service, which combines a virtual phone service, a virtual receptionist, smart call-forwarding, enhanced voicemail and call screening in a cloud-based solution.

Lenovo table; finger gestures
The touch-screen abilities built into Windows 7 will mean more people should reach out and touch their PCs in 2010.
(Click for larger image)

Other cost-saving tools will continue to gain traction among small businesses in 2010. For example, Skype Limited’s Skype for Business delivers more than just VoIP calls, but also face-to-face video calls, large file sharing, collaboration and more. And the company offers a Business Control Panel that lets you easily set up employee accounts, allocate credit, set up online numbers and more.

Similarly, look for more businesses to turn to online meeting services such as Citrix’s GoToMeeting and Cisco’s WebEx to save on travel costs.

Reach Out and Touch Your PC

On the hardware front, experts expect 2010 to be a touchy year. “The emergence of touch screens and touch-aware apps will accelerate,” predicts Michael Deutch, director of product marketing at MindJet, a developer of unique personal productivity and collaboration solutions. “Instead of pressing a button, you’ll control the device with a gesture.”

Brought to the mainstream by the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, touch interaction with PCs, smartphones and other devices will get a boost from products such as Windows 7, which offers native touch-aware abilities, and the new Google Nexus One phone. And if Apple unveils its long-rumored tablet, touch-screen abilities will generate even more buzz.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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This article was originally published on January 12, 2010
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