New opportunities are the lifeblood of small businesses. Whether you make the most of the digital world or stick to more traditional modes of communication, here are four simple ways to stay ahead of the pack by keeping tabs on industry trends in 2017.
News often breaks on social media, so scanning trending topics within your industry can help you stay current. Save time by setting up a hashtag monitor (a way to tag and track topics on social media) through a service such as Vancouver-based Hootsuite. The social media scheduling service also provides relevant content suggestions that can help you populate your feeds and position yourself as an industry expert. Other apps, such as Pocket, allow you to bookmark interesting industry stories to read when you have more time.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all great tools for keeping an eye on your competitors and what trends they’re adopting. Ideally you’ll beat them to the punch, but either way you should monitor what other similar businesses are doing while following relevant experts.
Keep track of customer comments on your social media channels for ideas. For example, are a lot of people asking for a specific product or service? Do potential customers in a specific geographic area want you to provide delivery or open another outlet? Have customers spotted a trend they’d like you to adopt (e.g., maybe you make craft beer and there is a “brewery quarter” tour starting in your city)? Square Analytics can give you in-depth sales information to help you make these kinds of decisions in a data-driven way.
Get SEO savvy.
If you’re feeling data savvy, you can take your research a step further with user-friendly search engine optimization (SEO) tools such as Moz. You simply enter keywords related to your industry and find out what people are looking for online. If you have a well-established website, you can also include these keywords in new blog entries and drive traffic your way (see Moz for a starter guide).
Ask your team.
Leverage your employees’ knowledge of new trends by making it easy for everyone to communicate and share interesting articles or other information during morning check-ins and weekly meetings. Or get online with the Vancouver tech firm Slack and set up a chat channel for internal communications to give your team an accessible platform to share ideas.
Build your network.
Subscribe to trade journals (print and online) to learn more about what’s happening in your field. Local networking events, trade conferences and training sessions can provide opportunities to find new contacts, catch up on industry news and develop your skills.