Monthly Archives: December 2015

The impact of technology on small businesses, such as twitter

Much has been made of how big companies like Dell, Starbucks and Comcast use Twitter to promote their products and answer customers’ questions. But today, small businesses outnumber the big ones on the free micro blogging service, and in many ways, Twitter is an even more useful tool for them.

For many mom-and-pop shops with no ad budget, Twitter has become their sole means of marketing. It is far easier to set up and update a Twitter account than to maintain a Web page. And because small-business owners tend to work at the cash register, not in a cubicle in the marketing department, Twitter’s intimacy suits them well.

“We think of these social media tools as being in the realm of the sophisticated, multiplatform marketers like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, but a lot of these supersmall businesses are gravitating toward them because they are accessible, free and very simple,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst who studies the Internet’s influence on shopping and local businesses.

Small businesses typically get more than half of their customers through word of mouth, he said, and Twitter is the digital manifestation of that. Twitter users broadcast messages of up to 140 characters in length, and the culture of the service encourages people to spread news to friends in their own network.

Umi, a sushi restaurant in San Francisco, sometimes gets five new customers a night who learned about it on Twitter, said Shamus Booth, a co-owner.

He twitters about the fresh fish of the night — “The O-Toro (bluefin tuna belly) tonight is some of the most rich and buttery tuna I’ve had,” he recently wrote — and offers free seaweed salads to people who mention Twitter.
Curtis Kimball, owner of a crème brûlée cart in San Francisco, uses Twitter to drive his customers to his changing location. Credit Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Twitter is not just for businesses that want to lure customers with mouth-watering descriptions of food. For Cynthia Sutton-Stolle, the co-owner of Silver Barn Antiques in tiny Columbus, Tex., Twitter has been a way to find both suppliers and customers nationwide.

Since she joined Twitter in February, she has connected with people making lamps and candles that she subsequently ordered for her shop and has sold a few thousand dollars of merchandise to people outside Columbus, including to a woman in New Jersey shopping for graduation gifts.

“We don’t even have our Web site done, and we weren’t even trying to start an e-commerce business,” Ms. Sutton-Stolle said. “Twitter has been a real valuable tool because it’s made us national instead of a little-bitty store in a little-bitty town.”

Scott Seaman of Blowing Rock, N.C., also uses Twitter to expand his customer base beyond his town of about 1,500 residents. Mr. Seaman is a partner at Christopher’s Wine and Cheese shop and owns a bed and breakfast in town. He sets up searches on TweetDeck, a Web application that helps people manage their Twitter messages, to start conversations with people talking about his town or the mountain nearby. One person he met on Twitter booked a room at his inn, and a woman in Dallas ordered sake from his shop.

The extra traffic has come despite his rarely pitching his own businesses on Twitter. “To me, that’s a turn-off,” he said. Instead of marketing to customers, small-business owners should use the same persona they have offline, he advised. “Be the small shopkeeper down the street that everyone knows by name.”

Chris Mann, the owner of Woodhouse Day Spa in Cincinnati, twitters about discounts for massages and manicures every Tuesday. Twitter beats e-mail promotions because he can send tweets from his phone in a meeting and “every single business sends out an e-mail,” he said.

Even if a shop’s customers are not on Twitter, the service can be useful for entrepreneurs, said Becky McCray, who runs a liquor store and cattle ranch in Oklahoma and publishes a blog called Small Biz Survival.

In towns like hers, with only 5,000 people, small-business owners can feel isolated, she said. But on Twitter, she has learned business tax tips from an accountant, marketing tips from a consultant in Tennessee and start-up tips from the founder of several tech companies.

Anamitra Banerji, who manages commercial products at Twitter, said that when he joined the company from Yahoo in March, “I thought this was a place where large businesses were. What I’m finding more and more, to my surprise every single day, is business of all kinds.”

Twitter, which does not yet make money, is now concentrating on teaching businesses how they can join and use it, Mr. Banerji said, and the company plans to publish case studies. He is also developing products that Twitter can sell to businesses of all sizes this year, including features to verify businesses’ accounts and analyze traffic to their Twitter profiles.

According to Mr. Banerji, small-business owners like Twitter because they can talk directly to customers in a way that they were able to do only in person before. “We’re finding the emotional distance between businesses and their customers is shortening quite a bit,” he said.


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The solar power more feasible for businesses and household that have large-scale power requirements

As per a recent report by Ernst & Young (E&Y), the prices of Solar Cells technology are falling at such a fast rate that by the year 2013 solar panels would cost just half of what they used to cost in 2009. The average one-times cost of installing solar PV panels was $2 per unit of generation capacity in 2009 and in 2011 it came down to $1.50. And, according to industry experts this rate of decline is going to continue and the prices would reach $1 in 2013.


Currently, solar PV technology is economically feasible for homeowners and small businesses due to government aid offered in the form of Feed-in-Tariffs. However, as per the latest analysis it is suggested that the increasing fossil fuel prices and the declining Solar Cells prices would together make the solar installations cost-effective without government aid, even on a larger scale.

With this perspective, it has become apparent that the support from the government for different types of solar power systems over these years and even in the near future made proper economic sense. On similar lines, another report displayed that the month to month spot price of silicon fell by 28%. This is important because silicon is the basic material used in making majority of Solar Cells.

 The Government Perspective

While private and independent bodies have reported this drastic drop in the price of solar power technology in the future, the government advisory bodies have something else to say. According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in the United Kingdom, solar power still remains expensive for being considered in the near future. However, according to E&Y, the government perspective fails to look at the wide economic benefits associated with Solar Cells.


Dollar price per water of peak power capacity is taken as the standard for comparing the cost of power generation by different energy sources. This comparison between solar power and other energy sources can be done on the basis of following factors:

  • Upfront expenses
  • Fuel prices
  • Discount rates
  • Maintenance cost

According to the report, regular support from the government in the short-term would bring down the levelized cost of large-scale solar energy production at par with the retail price of energy in the period between 2016 and 2019. This is a clear suggestion that in just a decade, businesses with huge power demands would be able to install unsubsidized Solar Cells systems rather than buy power from the grid.