The internet is an incredibly valuable tool, and billions of people all over the world are using it daily for a variety of things. This includes everything from entertainment, to news, to sports, and much more.
In addition to having value for individuals, the internet has provided many opportunities for businesses. It provides instant access to information, and it has allowed businesses to replace many traditional business duties with their online counterparts. For example, you can even send a fax online with eFax.
However, it is also important to be aware of the risks of using the internet for your small business. While it can be a great tool in many ways, it can also be the ultimate downfall of your company. Read on to learn about some of the risks and benefits of the internet for your small business.
Risk of the Internet: Negative Reviews or Feedback
One of the risks of your small business being online is receiving negative reviews or negative feedback. The internet provides customers with power by reporting their experiences to the masses.
If you start to get some negative reviews, it can ultimately lead to a bad reputation. This can hurt your sales, and make some people unwilling to work with you.
While positive reviews could be seen as a benefit, people are more likely to head online to report a bad experience about a product or service, than they are a good one. So if your company uses the internet, be sure to do all you can to get positive reviews.
If you do end up with negative ones, be sure to respond to them constructively and see what you can do to improve the situation transparently.
The benefit of the Internet: Much Greater Exposure
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the internet for small businesses is how much exposure it can provide. In the past, your customer base for a company was generally in the city or town in which you located.
Today, people from all over the world can become your customers or show an interest in your company. Using search engine optimization and social media effectively can drastically expand your reach, and thus, your number of potential customers.
Without the use of the internet, you will find it hard to keep up with your competitors as it will be much harder for people to not only learn about the value you provide but also find out about you in the first place.
Risk of the Internet: Security Breaches
Among the largest risks of using the internet for your small business comes down to security. Security breaches and hacks are unfortunately growing more common as more companies begin to operate online.
While large companies are often the target of these attacks, plenty of small businesses have also fallen victim. Getting hacked, or having data stolen or leaked can drastically hurt the reputation of your company and could cost you a lot of money. In fact, the average total cost of a data breach is almost $4 million.
To avoid these breaches and avoid falling for phishing attacks, educate your entire team on proper internet usage and safety. Employees should be required to use strong passwords, know how to browse safely, and be sure not to leak any important information or data inadvertently or intentionally.
You can train your team in-house, but there are also third-party companies that can do it as well.
The benefit of the Internet: Cheaper Costs
Using the internet can also provide an opportunity for some cost savings for small companies. Some businesses are able to downsize in terms of their required office space, or even eliminate the need for an office at all. This is because the internet makes remote work possible in nearly every industry. Another way the internet can help companies save money is in marketing costs.
There are a variety of digital marketing channels that allow companies to advertise and grow their brand without having to spend a fortune.
This could be SEO, social media, affiliate marketing, working with influencers, and numerous others. The internet also lets you target your specific market more effectively, and ensure your products get in front of the right people.
Also, cloud services are often more affordable than bulky physical storage or servers. Simply put, the internet provides a lot of cost-savings when compared to traditional methods or machines.
Risk of the Internet: Potential Legal Risks
As a company, you always need to be aware of the legal risks of what you are doing. This is especially true if your company sells or markets on the internet.
While your product or service might be legal in some areas, it might not be in others. You need to be sure to evaluate all the places you sell your product and service and make sure it is legal.
If you ship something where it is illegal, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble and face potential fines or other penalties. Things like different taxes, duties, and fees also need to be taken into consideration.
So before listing your product in certain markets, do your research and make sure you aren’t violating any laws by doing so.
The benefit of the Internet: Easier Communication and Resource Sharing
The internet has drastically improved how easy it is to communicate with not only your team but also with your customers. It has all but eliminated the need for meetings thanks to meeting programs such as Zoom and Skype. Even tasks like emailing are much simpler than having to go down to the office or desk of the person you want to talk to. This simpler communication can lead to a lot of time savings and eliminate a lot of confusion.
In a similar vein, sharing information or data with team members has also become much easier. There are several collaboration platforms that can allow teams to work together 24/7, all from their computers and mobile devices. Without the internet, sharing this information and collaborating would require face-to-face time, which isn’t always possible or cost-effective.
While the internet is a wonderful tool for businesses, it isn’t free from its problems. It is important to be aware of both the risks and benefits of internet usage in regards to your small business.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.