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What college students can teach you about online business

If you’re curious why we here at thinks take such a bullish outlook on the mobile, social, local web, here’s a simple answer. Clive Thompson points to a technology survey from Amherst College that shows 1% of first-year students have landlines while 99% have Facebook accounts. Sure, the folks in Thompson’s article are college freshman and may not reflect your customers today. But, their behaviors represent what we’re likely to see from this demographic throughout their lives, and also how those around them likely will change.

One example:

“Students in the class of 2012 who registered computers, IPhones, game consoles, etc. on the campus network by the end of the day on August 24th, the day they moved into their dorm rooms: 370 students registered 443 devices.”

That’s 85% of the students registering about 1.2 devices each to connect to the Internet. Laptops, iPhones, game consoles. And 99% of these kids had Facebook accounts. They live their lives on the web. And they have the tools to do it.

What does this mean? For one thing, it means your customers increasingly won’t be looking up your business in the (print) Yellow Pages. In the spirit of being “fair and balanced,” it’s worth looking at the comments in Chris Silver Smith’s critique of Yellow Pages usage stats and Ed Reese’s excellent SuperPages case study at Mihmorandum before deciding what to do about online Yellow Pages advertising. Still, notice how Idearc (publisher of SuperPages) has bought domains like and They’re convinced something’s changing. Given their past connection to Verizon, it seems like they’d know.

The point here is that the ways your customers find you and reach you have are changing. First it was the phone book. Then the PC-based web. And now the mobile web is on the horizon. The great thing is you can account for those last two by following a series of best practices.

So. What are you waiting for?

Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure you’re ready for the mobile, social, local web? Subscribe to thinks today and get more than the news. Get understanding.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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