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Digital-Ready Business Workshops Going Online
Indiana Ag Connection - 06/04/2020

When the pandemic forced StrandzandThreadz to close its doors to customers, Stefanie Griffith and her sisters weren't thrilled but they were ready. They spun up a shopping site on the southern Indiana salon, spa and boutique's website and linked it to Facebook and Instagram.

If "location, location, location" is the key to successful retail business, the social media feeds of StrandzandThreadz became more valuable online real estate after Griffith attended two workshops in Purdue University's Digital Ready Businesses series and began applying what she learned.

"We really didn't have a good social media presence at the time," said Griffith, whose business is located physically in New Albany, Indiana. "We doubled, probably tripled, Facebook." Meanwhile, their Instagram audience grew from 200 to 1,700.

Purdue is now making the Digital Ready Businesses workshop series available in an online format that allows participants to learn where and when it's convenient. The entry-level workshops are designed to provide small businesses, entrepreneurs and community organizations with basic knowledge they need to establish an effective online presence.

"If you don't have an online presence today, you're not going to be able to compete or perform at the level you could," said Roberto Gallardo, director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. "People hear about these things but are not comfortable enough to go forward. These workshops can get them ready to dive in."

Participants can work through the lessons they want or complete the whole series. Completing the series leads to Digital Ready Businesses certification from Purdue.

The eight workshops, each about an hour to an hour and a half long, are:

Claiming Your Bubble: Learn how to stake a claim and build and manage a "bubble" for your business on map platforms like Google Maps and review sites like Yelp.

Planning Your Website: Learn what goes into planning and designing a website including key concepts, formats and content considerations.

Introduction to Email Marketing: Learn how to reach customers' inboxes by learning the basics of email marketing, key terms and essentials.

Email Marketing Analytics: Learn how to evaluate your email reach by understanding key indicators of effective email marketing, including conversion and return on investment.

Social Media Introduction and Platforms: Learn what social media is, what's available, how it differs from other digital platforms, and identify the platform or platforms most suitable for your business.

Social Media Planning and Content: Learn about a six-step social media planning tool, the benefits of social media and best practices for social media content.

Social Media Analytics and Marketing: Learn about key analytics concepts for evaluating your social media reach, paid marketing, Facebook Insights, and ad campaigns.

Business Intelligence: Learn basic concepts behind artificial intelligence and how your business might take advantage of this technology in the future.

For more information on Purdue's Digital Ready Businesses workshop series, visit

https://www.eventreg.purdue.edu/info/digital-ready-business. The workshops are $50 each for Indiana residents or $250 as a package of eight; $55 and $300 for out-of-state residents.

Purdue has been offering the workshops at in-person training sessions around the state of Indiana since 2018 and also has developed a self-contained mobile app. Participants can mix and match either of those options with the new online program or do the workshops entirely online.

"We're trying to be as flexible as we can because we know people are busy," says Emily Del Real, program coordinator at Purdue's Center for Regional Development.

Purdue has presented more than 100 of the in-person workshops. As a result of implementing digital business practices learned at the sessions, participants surveyed reported increases in their customer bases and customer engagement, along with increased sales. They also reported being able to create new jobs or retain existing jobs.

In addition to businesses, the workshops have proven popular with community organizations such as libraries, parks departments, tourism agencies and historical societies.

Griffith, who completed two of the social media workshops, said she picked up valuable tips such as how often to post on different platforms and the need for having a theme in Instagram posts. But her most valuable pickup may have been a template Purdue provides to guide organizations through the planning required to make social media pay off. "You don't just post randomly," Griffith said. "You've got to have a plan."

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