Social media tools help small-business owners everywhere

Young Omanis listening to lecture (State Dept.)
A rapt audience in Muscat, Oman, listens to social media guru Paul Colligan's advice on internet marketing. (State Dept.)

Even before social media guru and marketing expert Paul Colligan landed in Muscat, Oman, his message was resonating with young Omanis trying to break into the tech field.

He knew, because a flurry of comments in Arabic began appearing on his Facebook page, Twitter feed and other platforms from which he bestows advice on how to draw attention to new businesses, books or other ideas.

“I quickly learned the power of Google Translate,” said the Portland, Oregon, consultant. The Omanis shared a fascination with how technology has transformed the West. “Now they’re asking, ‘How can we begin to make this our own?'” he said.

Colligan met with more than 150 aspiring tech entrepreneurs, business owners, artists and students during a week of workshops. At a tech incubator, he did a round of “speed consulting” for the small-business owners.

Colligan, who penned a bestselling guide on How to Podcast, was struck that half or more of the tech folks he met were female. “You go to an American tech event and it skews heavily male,” he said.

Man speaking before wall with Arabic drawing (State Dept.)
Colligan, an expert on using social media for marketing, talks with young entrepreneurs in Muscat. (State Dept.)

“Almost every session started with, ‘Well, we know we need to be on Facebook. What else do we need to do?'” Colligan said.

He gets that same question when he speaks to business people in the United States. And he gives the same advice: Step one is to ask, “What do I want to do with my business or product?” And step two is to find out if technology exists to make doing that easier.

“Facebook doesn’t help a business that doesn’t know what it’s doing,” he said. Technology opens up new marketing avenues. “We can do ads by gender, age and locality, and target just the 25- to 30-year-olds with smartphones,” he said.

He found people even more enthusiastic about WhatsApp, the mobile messaging application owned by Facebook that lets users send text messages and make calls for free. “They knew how WhatsApp saved them 25 cents or a dollar around town, but were really excited to learn about the possibilities to leverage their marketing.”