Open letter to all business owners

Dear business owner,

As you might have noticed while observing every life around you these days, quite a few of the phenomena that have become extremely popular among a large part of the population (obviosuly including a sizeable chunck of your customers) are focused on sharing things – more often than not online. On Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter to name just a few.

A smaller group of people is sharing not only their personal experiences and the pictures of their pets (or kids, or food, or hobbies, or any combination of those – never seen the one with the cat seemingly playing the guitar being chased by the kid covered in spagehtti sauce?), but also knowlegde and/or useful information. Wikipedia is the obvious example there. But also the Local Guide initiative from Google belongs in this category: ordinary people all over the world add and/or check information about local business to Google Maps. They are adding pictures, writing reviews, checking opening hours and phone numbers, correcting the exact position of the business on the map. (I should actually say ‘we’ instead of ‘they’ as I’m a Local Guide myself.) And for business owners it is actually very important to be aware of what is happening on Google Maps these days – as I have extensively explained in a previous blogpost.

So, dear business owner, if you see someone taking a picture of your business or shop (or of some shelves or items in your shelves*), your first impulse should not be to rush out and prevent him/her to do so (out of fear (s)he is working for a competitor attempting to steal one of your brilliant ideas?), neither should it be (in case you are running a shopping mall)  to instruct the security team to chase him/her away. (I have personally experienced both scenarios, so this is absolutely not a mere thought experiment). You should realize that this is very likely someone contributing to your online presence (such as the pictures accompanying this post are doing for a Belgian perfumery and a German bank: those are actual pictures I have uploaded as part of my Local Guide activities), and that you should therefore be thrilled to soon get extra onlne exposure without having to make any effort, let alone pay for it. According to the latest update Google sent me, the 858 pictures I have uploaded so far have 1.9 million views (although I’m a bit skeptical about what exactly their definition of a view is – so the number is definitely a vanity metric, but on the other hand it’s certainly also not nothing).

And while we’re on the topic of your online presence, dear business owner, [now I’m addressing – based on what I come across when visiting small businesses’ websites – a smaller, but still sizeable group] please take a minute and just try viewing your own website on your (kid’s/nephew’s) smartphone. You will soon realize that the investment you made 5 (or in some cases even 10 or more) years ago to set up a website in an attempt to look up to date, is now only making you look completely outdated. The good news, however, is that it is now much easier (and consequently requiring a much smaller follow up investment) to set up a new, modern looking website. Just make sure to remember the magic word ‘responsive’ (and admire the result afterwards on that aforementioned smartphone).

* Google probably loves it when pictures taken indoors are added, because their cars that drive around mapping the world (for Street View) can only provide images of the outside of buildings, not of the inside.

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