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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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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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BYOD, Social Media and New Cloud Consumption Models

Bringing You the Workplace Revolution

Kids get sick, cars malfunction, pipes break, bad-hair days occur, and the list goes on. Life simply happens.  But thanks to technology, it no longer means the end of the world for that work day. With a rapidly growing change in workplace ideologies like BYOD (Bring your own device), and technologies like TelePresence, Jabber and WebEx, I have the ability to work almost anywhere at any time, even if things prevent me from getting to the office that day.

Given the explosion of social media technologies in the past few years, it only makes sense that BYOD is taking off like a firestorm—even among small businesses—as covered in two recent blogs,  ‘Business Ready: On the Go and in the Clouds’ and ‘Supersizing Your Small Business.’  In fact, the Cisco Connected World Technology Report found that two of five college students and young employees would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with BYOD, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility. So what about those at companies with very little flexibility when it comes to devices? Seven out of ten employees knowingly break IT policies on a regular basis, and three out of five believe that it is not their responsibility to keep the company secure. The bottom line: the workplace revolution is happening (and it’s being video streamed on your mobile device).

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Technology for Business Sake

Nothing irritates me more than technology that goes unused.  Shiny things, cool bells and whistles, and technology features don’t excite me unless I see people using the technology to transform their business and gaining true return on their investment.

I often ask customers, “What is more important to you, get the cheapest deal or realizing the benefits the technology can offer?”  Do you choose something because it is free or something that delivers a solution to your needs?  Often I’ve seen people choose cost over benefit, to deeply regret it later; spending valuable time not realizing the productivity benefits.

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Want a Network ‘Recipe’ to Increase Partner Quarterly Bookings?

January 26, 2012 at 9:30 am PST

Photo credit: foodily.comIf I were cooking lobster risotto for the first time, I probably wouldn’t just leave it to trial and error, hoping for the best. I would go to my favorite website for recipes that had already been tested by fellow home chefs. It’d either be that or order pizza again.

So, when it comes to networks, wouldn’t it be great if there was a similar resource—a place you could tap into to find successful “recipes” for building your customer’s network without having to start from scratch?

Well, there actually is a resource available to Cisco partners and it’s free! Cisco SMART Designs is a portfolio of validated and replicable network solutions, optimized to meet the needs of Cisco partners serving small business customers with up to 250 users. By removing the guesswork from building the right network for your customers, you can make your operation more profitable and help protect your customers’ investments.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to tap into this free resource, how about this fun fact?

Select partners worldwide using Cisco SMART Designs have 52 percent higher average quarterly bookings than those who don’t.

Ready to get started? Read on to learn more about the benefits of using Cisco SMART Designs and how to access this free resource today. Read More »

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