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Social Media: A Swiss Army Knife for SMBs

Social media has become so ingrained in our culture these days that much of the time, we’re not even aware of it as anything “other.” But for some, it’s way more than just a recreational outlet. It turns out that small businesses that are using social media are seeing the biggest gains, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report: from new partnerships to qualified leads to improved sales to reduced marketing costs.

Gartner’s Anthony Bradley defines social media this way: “At its foundation, social media is a set of technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massive community of participants to productively collaborate. IT tools to support collaboration have existed for decades. But social-media technologies, such as social networking, wikis and blogs, enable collaboration on a much grander scale and support tapping the power of the collective in ways previously unachievable.”

One company that’s doing exactly that is FanAxcess.com, an Oakland, California-based start up that aims to match up-and-coming musicians with potential brand sponsors, while also creating a simpler and more cost-effective pathway for advertisers to reach target markets.

Brands are always seeking fresh ways to differentiate—and personify—themselves with standout spokespersons. But, that can be tough when there’s always the same pool of big fish to choose from. “We provide a forum for artists to create very specific profiles that give insight into who they—and their fan bases—are. So, if you’re an advertiser, you can search artists by audience (based on their social media fans across sites or, their average number of live fans), by genre, by eco-friendliness (or other indicators), and by upcoming tours and promotions,” explains Suzanne Mino Koga, co-founder, artist manager and music marketing consultant. This creates a dynamic library for advertisers to source from, to find just the right match in terms of brand feel/aspirations and audience it wishes to target. “And along the way, musical artists can tap into new potential revenue streams and raise their visibility,” adds Koga.

For other businesses that use social media such as Yelp, Facebook or Twitter as a way to market and build community with their customers, there’s something else to think about: the caliber of the type of customers you attract when you engage in social media. These folks are more digitally connected. And that means they can be a powerful form of advertising on your behalf. So when your customers come to your place of business, you need to provide guest wireless access to let them be your spokespersons and to keep them coming back.

Consistently monitoring social media activity is also critical. In fact, according to Indaba, 66% of businesses were using or were planning  to use Social media monitoring for their business. Remember to watch out for potential security issues, as pointed out in a recent Cisco Small Business blog: As the line between personal and professional blurs, employees who might monitor or update your accounts could unknowingly introduce malware picked up from their own personal accounts.

Just as a Swiss Army knife can be a great productivity tool, so can social media—with care and clarity around how you want to use it, you can expand your community of customers and partners. Not only that, you can sharpen your results: If customers can be more productive interacting with your brand—and amplifying their experiences—you’ve carved out a really great success story.

If you’re going to be in Houston next week, be sure to register for The Small Business Tour: Time to Thrive, on June 7. Cisco executive Lief Koepsel will talk about how small businesses can use social media—as well as cloud and mobility—to reach new levels of productivity and success.

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IPv6 Hitting Closer to Home. Are You Ready?

Follow these 3 steps for preparing your network for the new Internet protocol

On June 6, currently being referred to as World IPv6 Day, several of the world’s largest ISPs and websites will permanently enable IPv6 —the next-generation Internet. With the explosive growth of Internet-enabled devices, the batch of IPv4 addresses that allows those devices to access the Internet have run out. The new Internet protocol, IPv6, provides a greater number of addresses to support more people, more companies, and more devices on the Internet. Consider this: By 2016, 39 percent of all global mobile devices could be capable of connecting to an IPv6 mobile network—that’s more than 4 billion devices.

Your current network running IPv4-based devices won’t be obsolete for some time. However, if you haven’t already started making plans for the transition to IPv6, you should. The first step you should take is determining how and when to transition to the new Internet protocol based on your business needs. For example, if you do business with others who are already on an IPv6 network, you may decide to migrate sooner rather than later.

Once you’ve made that decision, you can follow these steps for preparing your network for IPv6.

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How Broadband Reduces Small Business Expenses

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

When it comes to proving the benefits of broadband deployment, we frequently focus on the macroeconomic issues – the big-picture impact of infrastructure and access to high-speed networking. But the Internet Innovation Alliance and the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC) recently looked at broadband from a microeconomic standpoint.

In their report, Start-Up Savings: Boosting Entrepreneurship through Broadband Internet, jointly issued last month, they calculated how much small businesses can save by conducting their administrative activities online. The answer: a  substantial $16,550.52.

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Smartphones are business tools, too

Learn how you can make employees more productive with their mobile devices

Smartphone usage—and the expectations around smartphones—are changing rapidly. Average smartphone usage nearly tripled in 2011, and by the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. By 2016 there will be an estimated 1.4 mobile devices per person. Given the rise of smartphones, it’s not surprising that people rely on their mobile devices for more and more of their daily interactions, including business communications, whether at work, at home, and on the road. In a Cisco report, 46 percent of people surveyed expect to be able to access their corporate network from their personal mobile device.

However, there’s more than just flexibility accompanying the BYOD trend. These shifting expectations about connectivity also come with a host of decisions for small business. For example, do you have the network infrastructure in place to enable your employees to use their mobile devices for business communications? Do you have a wireless device usage policy? Are your VPN connections secure? And when your employees do connect to the workplace via a mobile device, do they have access to products and tools to help them do their jobs?

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Building the Right Network to Boost Small Business Productivity

April 12, 2012 at 8:00 am PST

Calling all small sized businesses owners, and resellers – is your network ready for the growing mobility and cloud trends?

Considering that the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population in 2012,[i] and that wireless device traffic will exceed wired device traffic by 2014, we say it’s a great time to make sure you are.  In fact, mobile data traffic has doubled in the past four years and tablets are making their way into the office with more than 3.4X the traffic than a smart phone. Businesses are recognizing these upward trends, as a matter of fact; cloud adoption for small businesses is growing quickly with 72-percent of small businesses using the cloud in 2011 to 98 percent in 2015[ii].  So are your networks built to support the growing use of mobility and cloud in the SMB workplace? Cisco’s new lineup of small business solutions could be just the ticket to get you there.

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