The Web’s Final Frontier

The Web’s Final Frontier

It’s small businesses.

I used to think it’d be grandmas or small children. But it’s not.

Most people eventually understand all the personal reasons to be on the web.

My grandfather has a a Facebook account and knows how to check his stock portfolio. My other grandfather compulsively checks e-mail, reads the Wall Street Journal, and looks at his dubiously factual “news” sites to share conspiracies with the family.

Lloyd’s four-year-old daughter took to his iPad like she’d been born to use it. Once she learned how to use “The Big iPhone” and snuck a peek at his iTunes password, she promptly downloaded every application related to princesses and unicorns.

But small businesses are still behind. Way behind. See as an example.

Part of the reason is that small business owners are already doing everything they already know to stay afloat. Adding a whole new category to what they need to understand and stay up-to-date with is just too much. Imagine you were trying to catch up on 15 years of the Internet starting from scratch. It’s not easy. Imagine you spent $5,000 on your website in 1999 and now you need to allocate money to do it again. You wouldn’t know where to start.

Part of the reason is because they always saw the internet as a silly and frivolous place.

“On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.”

You had people making stuff up on Geocities, getting into fights on message boards, and no one making any money for the first five years (except in IPOs that proved disastrous). Google seemed useful but it had a silly name. And then came MySpace and Facebook for kids to share lewd pictures and curse at each other. And then Twitter and Tumblr and well… If you didn’t use the Internet and didn’t see how it would be helpful and only ever read articles about kids bullying one another, you just might hope it was a fad.

But it wasn’t.

And now small businesses are starting to see the impact on their own markets. Yelp reviews are telling customers which merchants and restaurants to visit. Google searches are the default for replacing the Yellow Pages. More people are reading newspapers than ever (online) and fewer people are opening up the paper itself.

And now Google is calling you trying to sell you ads on Google searches (but you’d just be sending people to the website your nephew built in 2001).

And Groupon calls and tries to sell you a voucher system that will deliver hundreds of customers you might lose money on (but maybe some will turn into regulars).

And a dozen other companies call you and tell you that they can get you to the top of Google search rankings (but they sound sleazy and who do you trust?).

And Yelp calls and says for $300 a month you can choose the review you want to appear at the top of your profile page.

And then someone tells you that your business needs to be on Facebook and you should do Facebook advertising and you need to start using Twitter and make sure your Linkedin profile is current.

It’s a mess and it isn’t easy.

Most small business owners we work with didn’t have a clue where to start.

And most people just want somebody to do it for them. They took their hard earned money and opened a pizza parlor or a garage or a gift shop. They never really wanted to be on the Internet.

So, Seeing Interactive sits on the World Wide Web’s final frontier. It’s unsexy, it requires boots on the ground, but we’re making fast and substantial progress.

We announced our partnership with Weebly yesterday to fix the first big problem small businesses have. They need a good solid website that has been created with SEO principles in mind and they need to be able to easily update it.

Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out our vision for small businesses on the web. It’s an exciting time to be on the frontier.