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'Business via Internet' workshops to be offered

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The Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce a partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension to offer workshops of the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities program for the business community of Park Rapids and surrounding communities.

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The workshops addressing how businesses can benefit through use of the Internet are made possible through a grant from Blandin Foundation. The workshops focus on the changes in doing business in today's world.  

A good portion of consumers now use the Internet to find goods, services and products. If a business or non-profit is not online, it's as if they don't exist to this growing group of consumers.  

These workshops are offered free to any business - including retail, restaurants and resorts, non profits, artists, entrepreneurs and individuals interested in the topic.

Business on the Internet isn't just for Amazon and iTunes any more. With 79 percent of adults regularly using the Internet, being offline is becoming less and less of an option for all business.

This series of seminars is intended to assist local businesses and nonprofits in establishing their own address and identity in cyberspace.

While virtually everyone is familiar with commercial websites, having your own dot-com is only one means of establishing a useful Web presence.

For example, Google gleans information from telephone and business directory websites and repurposes it through Google maps to create an instant, free and easily customized Web presence for virtually every business, complete with references and a locator map.

We urge all business owners and managers to Google their own enterprises to check the accuracy of the listing. You will learn how, with just a few mouse clicks, that information can be corrected and updated.

Sites like Google maps, which literally direct customers to a company's doorstep, are just one example of how the Web is constantly changing and becoming more and more integral to the way customers live and do business.

As customers increasingly become accustomed to accessing shopping information online and via Smartphones, any business that hasn't optimized its operation to make use of those technologies will find itself at a competitive disadvantage.

Advanced registration is required. To register or for more information on the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce classes, contact the Chamber at 732-4111 or katie@ parkrapids.com.

All classes will be offered in the high school computer lab, room 509.

n The first workshop, Doing Business Online, will be offered from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22. Art Nash will instruct.

Explore options for using the Internet in your business and find the best fit for your operation.

This hands-on workshop introduces the many options for businesses to develop their online presence and connect with customers today.    

On the computer, participants will research what other businesses are doing online, explore the use of a number of online tools and set a plan in place to take advantage of the Internet in a business.

n Using Social Media to Market Your Business will take place at 8 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 8. Adeel Ahmen will lead the class.

This class will focus on strategic uses of social media. A minimum prerequisite for the first session is that attendees have a personal Facebook account.

The session will explore ways your business can use social media and online networking tools to communicate with customers. 

While the Yellow Pages and traditional websites are still useful for advertising your business or community information, many business owners are beginning to interact with their customers through websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

These methods can help you reach new and hard-to-reach audiences.

This class will explore basic fundamentals of popular social networking sites, examples of use for, and the potential benefits social media could bring to your business and community.

n The third session will address Mobile e-Marketing, beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 26. Adeel Ahmen will lead the class.

People everywhere are using mobile devices - iPhones, Android phones or tablets - to find where to go, what do and even what to buy.

Cisco Systems projects that by the year 2015 there will be 7 billion Smartphones in the world. That's one Smartphone per person.

Marketing strategies for mobile media are different than regular. In this workshop, participants learn how to connect with customers on this new mobile platform including how to utilize mobile websites, mobile apps, QR codes, location based services and digital coupons.

Additional classes to be offered include:

n Roadside Advertising in a Digital Age - Does your business have a sign on the digital superhighway? Can people find your business when they search an online map or a GPS device?

About 50 million people use GPS units while even more use digital maps like Google maps to find goods or services.

Digital maps not only describe in detail how to reach a destination, but give advice on the goods or services.

n Marketing your Website - Examine strategies for getting your website found by customers. Just having a website is not enough, you need visitors to find and use your site.

This hands-on workshop will help you understand how customers find websites and how you can improve the chances they will find yours.

We'll also explore how social media like Twitter and Facebook, online advertising, blogs and e-newsletters can drive traffic and business to your site.

n Blogging for Business - Blogs are simple, inexpensive ways to for businesses to gain a credible online presence and reach their current and new customers.

There are a variety of blogging tools available for business owners and many are free. Participants will learn the basics of good blogging, the tools available to make and update a blog, and how to promote a blog and a business.

n Google Tools for Business - Explore a wide range of tools available free from Google to market your business and run it more efficiently.

Tools covered in this three-hour workshop include Google sites (to make simple Web pages), Google analytics (to learn about traffic to your Web site) and more.

Participants will learn how to use Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk to make operations more efficient.

Members will set up a Google account and try out the tools hands-on in a computer lab.

n Websites from Simple to Complex - Starting a business website doesn't have to be an intimidating process.

More than ever before, there are a variety of great options for business owners. For some business people, the free and easy option is best. For others, there is a need to customize with a unique design and features. There are also many options in between.

In this three-hour hands-on workshop, participants will learn about the options available for creating a business website.

Participants learn tips related to working with Web designers and programmers and understanding pricing and costs.

n From Craig's List to Shopping Carts: Introduction to Selling Online - Businesses are doing more and more transactions online to sell products directly as well as manage their bank accounts.

This two-hour hands-on workshop covers the major concerns related to online transactions like security, shipping and costs. Participants will explore the use of online tools like Paypal and online banking platforms to help make more informed decisions.

Katie Magozzi is executive director of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

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