Business Trends - Go International or Go Broke and Advertising Via Social Networks

The gradual shift of business operations and activities being dominated by major corporations and companies to the hands of the small business owners has seen the increase in competition for potential clients within the national scene. This is a particular problem for developed countries, because of the saturation of the market with more product and service providers than ever before, and where there is competition, there are no surprises that the bigger and more well-established businesses have the advantage.

Businesses make or break on their ability to innovate, and the way around competition in the domestic market has given business operators the incentive to look further for business opportunities. While there are countries with an established culture of fusing Western and Eastern trends (such as Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong), there is actually a largely untapped market that is craving for all the luxuries that developed countries enjoy.

China, India and Korea have built their recent economic success around their ability to pick up the jobs that others don't want to do. As the average citizen begins to realize the rewards of their hard work, they are starting to splurge on the fruits of their labour. No where is this more obvious than China and Korea, with the numbers of tourists from these two Asian countries starting to rival those of the traditional Asian tourists of Japan and Taiwan.

Nowadays it is not uncommon to see a software application or website that supports more than one language. The modern design of software and web applications facilitate the process of internationalization, making it almost as easy to carry out as changing the look and feel of the software or website; but the commodity of language services are expensive and still rather inaccessible to the small business community.

The cost of making your products and services available to potential markets around the world, versus the increasing pressure of domestic competition you make the choice!

Advertising via social networks

This is an interesting aspect of business operations that has only recently emerged on the popularity of social networking websites and applications such as blogs, MSN messenger, MySpace and Facebook. Ironically, even as technology continues to evolve at an unbelievable pace, one of the most traditional forms of advertisement (word of mouth) is being revived by the technological revolution.

Social networks are an incredible way / approach / method to spread and disseminate information. This is largely due to the fact that social networks are partly built on inferential links, i.e. A is friends with B, and B is friends with C; therefore A is also friends with C. Therefore, to spread the message to both B and C, A would only need to contact one person. If we imagine that each person in the social network also has multiple social networks, it essentially becomes an exponentially powered link.

Although also prone to spamming (much like email), social networks are being developed to be much more sophisticated than emails, allowing the configuration of individual links to allow different levels of access to each individual. In addition, other types of multimedia contents can also be shared, and are gathered together in one place to allow easy access. MySpace is now being used by musicians to let fans preview their latest videos, tracks, see the latest concert and tour dates, etc.

Businesses are also jumping into the social networking circles. Applications such as Squidoo and Joomla are putting social networking applications at the fingertips of everyday people with no IT or programming experience. The advent of Google AdSense and AdWord also reflect the trend of businesses advertising through Internet traffic and social networks.

The Next Opportunity - Predicting The Future

Last fall I attended the New York Media Information Exchange Group (NY:MIEG), monthly meeting hosted by Bill Sobel. If the 7:30 AM meet and greet doesn't wake you up, nothing will. Jack Myers editor and publisher of Jack Myers Media Business Reports, (formerly from HBO) was our guest speaker and at the end of his eye opening presentation, one of my colleagues asked the inevitable question that all serious business people ask: "Brad, where can you predict the next big idea will come from?" I pretended to be the voice of authority. Using a 70's style announcer voice (in a mockery of myself) I delivered the message... "You can't." I have never seen an individual look so disappointed.

My friend was attempting to get in ahead of the curve and invest in something before it became common knowledge on Wall Street. I guess he believed that a former dot com boomer like myself was able to predict the next big business explosion. Sorry, it was a one time deal and I was lucky to have been in the middle of it all. I couldn't have predicted the Dot Com phenomenon any more than I can predict what dress socks I'll be wearing tomorrow. But I can predict this: I was an entrepreneur before the dot com boom and I continue to be so. SO back to my point...

The grand illusion is that marketers, business people and trend setters believe they can predict the future into what they want it to be. Those predictions are used to mold investors minds. Ten years ago when my company had done it's first $4 million in sales and finished it's IPO, I thought I knew what the World Wide Web was all about. Hundreds of web developers couldn't be sustained for long in an imploding market and off the shelf software made custom development companies obsolete. But, predicting blogs, open source sites, cookie cutter templates for a whole website, Bluetooth, ipods, Unix based Macs and the Harry Potter phenomenon, were beyond my imagination. BUT, I did know the Web back then would not be the web of today. If Nicholas Negroponte taught me one thing in his book Being Digital, it was that technology would always migrate to the coolest most efficient delivery system. That is a big lesson learned that I must apply to the here and now. And who decides the coolest delivery system? The consumer.

If you think I'm out there, just look at VHS vs. Beta. For some reason the consumer went crazy over the bulky VHS tapes of poorer quality, while the much better broadcast beta was never adopted. Was it the fact that Beta was more expensive than VHS? Probably. In the 70's price was very important, but today's consumer doesn't make choices based on price. It's the emotional connection that is primary.

It always reminds me of one thing: What is hot today may not even exist in ten years.

Just pick-up a copy of TIME Magazine from years gone by and look for the Mega Trends issue they do from time to time. It will make you laugh almost as hard as watching Jack Tripper wear knit bell-bottoms with a pink sweater. You can't predict what people will love and what they will discard.

We are faster-paced today, cash rich and always on the run. We don't have time to go to three stores to find the best price and we sure as hell don't have time to write a letter. Christmas emails are now acceptable. Who saw that one coming? Try writing a post card and see if your hand doesn't cramp up. Convenience is king.

Jack Myers pointed out that morning at the NY:MIEG breakfast - 'There are children being born right now who will not know of a world without both virtual and real worlds being an intertwined part of their day-to-day lives." We cannot even fathom what the next generation will create. Going to work will have a very different meaning in the future. So when marketers attempt to deliver an awesome brand, they can only predict a certain level of success. Über success would require getting inside the group and see what all the excitement is about and then build the brand from the inside out. Viral Marketing attempts to do that, but as I always say, "Good luck with that." Viral Marketing only works if you can add your story to the group's socially acceptable rumor mill.

Second Life is in its infancy and when those children become teenagers, they will have logged thousands of hours in some virtual world that has replaced it. World of War Craft and the latest Wii console opened my eyes. Hopefully by then America can catch up with the rest of the world when fiber optics replaces copper wires. Yes, I am being sarcastic. Imagine that! We created the Internet and the Dot Com Boom yet Europe and Japan have surpassed us with their fiber optic network. For $40 a month every household in Tokyo can have high-speed connectivity. Not in America. Everybody wants a piece of the action.

It's driving me crazy. But I'm not surprised. I had cable in my hometown in Pennsylvania. It was 1984 when I moved to New York City...and we couldn't get cable in Manhattan! That's right, folks, in Manhattan you couldn't get cable. Why? Because they were fighting over who would get the contract for which area. Bureaucrats were involved, big money was on the table, and we the consumer suffered. One city block in Manhattan could have yielded a cable company, with basic installation, almost a million bucks a year. That's where you can predict the future: follow the dollar signs!

I think the Cable and Telco CEOs should do a cage match on Pay-Per-View with a winner takes all for the fiber optic contract. Maybe then I'll get my fiber optic network. So you can never predict where progress will come from, but you can predict greed and incentive.

Imagine if you had been able to invest in Star Trek back in 1966. How rich do you think you would be if you could have predicted the 40-year ride that Gene Rodenberry's vision would take? Toys, games, videos, cartoons and movies, action figures and book sales.

Now imagine what today's toddlers will be envisioning for their future. Downloadable TV to a computer chip in their brains? Movies that are viewed with virtual reality goggles - placing you in the center of the action? Sitting in a classroom while having an open dialog with your colleagues while sitting at home in a bathrobe? Traveling to work in Tokyo, or Sri Lanka without leaving your living room console.

If anyone can truly predict the future, count on globalization flattening the world and destroying boarders. Virtual worlds and e-commerce is already becoming the norm. Just imagine it's natural progression and voila, the future is happening under your nose. Kids today are looking to video games for their learning. It's happening all over the world. Just look at the new global economy and technology to make it easier. That is where you should invest.

If you still believe you can predict the future, I have two words for you - Steve Guttenberg. Everyone thought his career was in the bag back in the 80s. Where is he today? He's popped up now on Dancing with the Stars.

You just can't predict the next big thing, but you can make a calculated guess. To quote Yogi Berra "The future isn't what it used to be." Just look at how much Dark Cable is encircling India and you'll understand an investment opportunity like no other. But then again, I don't own a crystal ball.