New media has, and continues to, change the way in which most small businesses operate. Unlike the one-way communication paths displayed by “old media” formats such as television, radio and paper-based publications, new media technology is both digital and interactive. From connecting with customers to making it easier to compete with larger businesses, the advantages that the internet, electronic communications and social media provide most small businesses are as numerous as its uses.
Social media may be the most visible form of this new type of media, but it's far from the only way information is shared today. All forms of new media strive to add an element of participation in order to engage readers and give them a sense of membership. Websites have private forums dedicated to talking about goods and services with their customers. The growing number of review sites such as Yelp! and TripAdvisor have a huge influence on countless businesses. Even virtual contest sites can inform consumers while attracting large numbers of people to try new products.
New-media advertising is often less expensive than advertising in traditional media. Perhaps the biggest advantage of using new media is that the lack of any barriers that prevent a small business from entering the digital arena. For example, establishing and running an online store costs significantly less than running a brick-and-mortar store. Advertising online not only is less expensive than it is with old media, but it also allows business owners to reach a larger audience. The internet also eliminates expensive travel. A small-business retail store owner can purchase inventory from suppliers without ever leaving the office.
An internet presence and email communications have the potential to expand a small business's customer base exponentially. Unlike the limited scope and time delay characteristic of traditional advertising methods, new media options allow not only for instant connections but also for connecting on a number of different levels. Some of the most common ways to help potential customers learn about and purchase products include:
- Email newsletters
- Participating in social media sites
- Advertising on Facebook
- Instagram ads
- Twitter promotions
Businesses can use video technology both internally and to connect with the outside world. For example, remote teams communicating over video often make faster and more informed decisions, while customer service representatives can interact with clients and associates on a more personal level. In addition, a video blog can welcome viewers to a website, as well as describe and demonstrate how to use a product.
An internet connection, a virtual private network, video conferencing, email and instant messaging provide flexible work options that can benefit both a business and its employees. Although allowing employees to work from home on a part or full-time basis doesn’t work for every business, a mobile workforce can produce significant tangible and intangible benefits for some businesses. These include cost savings that come from occupying a smaller facility and revenue increases that can result from rising employee productivity.
Businesses can no longer count on information flowing only one way: from their planning sessions to the consumers. With new media, businesses enter into a true conversation with their customers, responding to their wishes while fine-tuning their marketing plans.