The internet is a great tool for bringing together people of like minds. That is what I was thinking as I was Googling my parents in law's business, only to find that one of their main rivals has paid Google enough money to put their name on top of someone else's business in the Google search results even though it was that someone else's business I was explicitly looking for.
For the benefit of the rest of this post, let me provide you with the basic background of my parents in law's family business: They're in the manufacturing industry; theirs is a niche market; they sell a small number of relatively big and expensive products; and their business shall rename unnamed here.
I knew the internet to be a gateway to the world for quite a while, but it was the acquisition of the iPhone, the resulting constant internet accessibility, and the consequential infatuation with the world of Twitter and Facebook that helped me realize just how much the internet is capable of getting me in touch with people that think like me.
To name just a few examples from the last month, I have had a photo of Dylan appear in one of the world's most popular science blogs; I have exchanged views and jokes with presenters from Melbourne's recent Global Atheist Convention and with comedians from the Melbourne Comedy Festival; and in my list of Facebook friends I now have an Australian author, an activist and a feminist with whom I share a lot of opinions and who publishes articles in daily Australian publications on a regular basis.
What does that have to do with my parents in law's business? Not much other than me wondering how far their business would go if they were to do what I am doing out of my own personal interests in order to promote their own business. Their business' current website is archaic, the type that makes you think theirs cannot be a serious business (while in fact I know the truth to be the exact opposite); but think of the options they have to promote their business, most of which won't cost them anything other than time - time that I already spend for my own pleasure without any financial gains.
Where could they start? They could establish a presence for themselves on Facebook and alert all their customers of it so the customers can become friends or fans. In there they could publish updates regarding their business and new products of theirs; they could even add some personal stuff for that personal feeling, because one of the greatest things about their business is that it is a family business and not some cold hearted conglomerate.
Similarly, they could start a Twitter account with the occasional news brief. Say, a sale of sorts, a second hand item they put their hands on and now offer on sale, a new model product... To those interested in their products such a service could be very handy.
They could start selling their products online. Maybe not by themselves, but they could certainly do so through eBay; they already have the delivery side of things sorted, it's just an avenue to easily connect the end consumer to them. Accepting PayPal, they can have the option of easily selling overseas, too.
And yes, they could even redo their website and update it on a regular basis. The way this blog works. By seeing a live website being kept up to date, customers will have confidence doing business with a company that's alive and well.
The funny thing about it all? If my parents in law lack the know how on how to do all of the above they could even get us to do some of them. Sure, we live half a world away, but since when do geography and international borderlines matter when it comes to the internet?