3 Technologies from Education You Can Use in Your Small Business

David Egger is Lead Marketing Manager for AT&T’s IRU (Individual Responsibility User) Mobility Programs. You can find more blog content from David and other experts on emerging technologies and mobile application on the AT&T Networking Exchange Blog. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.


Educational institutions often lead the way in using new technologies, even developing much of it themselves in their own labs and computer science departments.  In this post, let’s take a look at a few technologies being used in education that can help drive more sales, more customer involvement, and more customer loyalty for your small business.

Social Media
The roots of truly large-scale social media lie in Facebook.  Most are aware that facebook.com was once only for college students and started as a way for students to check out other students on campuses.  I’m actually quite proud that my account was started when it was still ‘thefacebook.com’ and each campus had its own subdomain (depauw.thefacebook.com).

Whether using a business page on facebook or a business account on twitter to promote your new products or services and special offers, building a base of loyal customers on social media is essential to any consumer-focused small business.

To keep your following strong, include regular special offers exclusively for social media subscribers or occasional contests.  Not every post should be sales-y though.  I love how Coke Zero uses their facebook page to post random, funny Coke Zero musings such as “The mark of a true hero is indicated by his Coke Zero mustache.”  Keep your social media tone set to the same mood as your business’ brand.  Coke Zero is a fun, lifestyle brand, so they post jokes and funny pictures.  A law firm posting photos of pants-less nerf gun battles in the office isn’t going to get the same effect.  Think of your business’ brand as a person, and imagine the kinds of things that person would share on social media. 


Podcasts are mixed media downloads, synchronized and updated to the user’s device through the use of RSS (really simple syndication) feeds.  Podcasts can be audio-only, video, or a series of images like a Powerpoint deck with audio on top of it.  Think of it as a TV or radio show that automatically downloads to your computer or phone through iTunes or another podcast manager.

In education, Podcasts and iTunes U give you access to courses taught at some of the nation’s top universities, even an entire curriculum.  UC Berkeley made all their computer science (CS) courses available as podcasts, so you can learn everything a CS major would learn, just without the grades or the degree.

Podcasts provide a way to link into an existing customer base and provide them extra content, or a way to build a following online through great content.  Your business could use podcasts to show great tips for using your products for existing customers, lowering your support and customer training costs.  You could also use podcasts to show off all the features of your new products or services.  Think of a store that sells luxury items for the home: Each week they put together a 5 minute ‘TV show’ highlighting 1-2 new products in the store, along with a Martha Stewart-esque ‘tip’ to add value.  Or perhaps a B2B company building a series of tutorials they make available as a podcast for their new customers to quickly get up to speed.


A common technology in today’s classrooms is the ‘clicker’, a classroom polling system allowing a teacher to get instant feedback from the class on how well they are following a topic, or whether they could answer a question correctly.  Many schools buy expensive systems with custom pieces of hardware that look like remote controls allowing students to respond.  PollEverywhere is eliminating all that clunky hardware and allowing for classroom and presentation response systems using mobile phones and texting.

Say you’ve got a big presentation to investors or potential customers, and you want to ensure everyone is fully engaged.  Add PollEverywhere polls to your presentation, and you can keep people awake and on their toes as they’ll have to send a text occasionally to answer your questions.  You could ask questions that could gauge how you’re doing, or even to help close the deal.  Ever hear of a ‘ladder of yes’?  Build a bevy of small questions that customers will say yes to, each increasing the commitment they make throughout the presentation.  This approach makes it far easier to obtain that big yes you’re looking for at the end.

Are there any other technologies being used in your small business that came from a school or an idea that was sparked by a practice used in an educational environment?  How are you using Social Media, Podcasts and Polling in your small business?