2013-09-06 / Front Page

Town named digital capital of Maine by Google

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Scarborough is home to more than 1,500 businesses that attract shoppers, diners and clients from all around greater Portland, across Maine and throughout the country, but in-person commerce shows only one side of the Scarborough business community.

More and more people are patronizing businesses online and connecting with them through social media, and last month Google took note of that fact.

In mid-August, Google named Scarborough the state’s first eCity, due to the strength of its online business community.

“Once a historic trading post, the city’s businesses are on the digital cutting edge, welcoming virtual and real visitors to discover local seafood, shops and state parks,” Google wrote about Scarborough.

Karen Martin, director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, said it is a great honor for the town and its business community.

“It is a tribute to our business community because that’s how they determined the title. It wasn’t about how many clients were online, it was about how strong is your business community’s presence online,” said Martin, who took over the organization, which strives to support and encourage business and economic development in Scarborough, earlier this year.

According to the Google eCities website, the “Google eCity award recognized the strongest online business community in each state. Google and independent research firm Ipsos MORI analyzed the strength of local small businesses in cities in all fifty states. The city with the highest score in each state was designated a 2013 Google eCity.”

Martin said having an online presence serves as a good first introduction to a business.

“Business is about creating a personal relationship,” Martin said. “(Being online) is how you build a personal relationship before a person has even walked in your door.”

Social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, Martin said, help to foster that personal relationship.

“Facebook is an excellent tool for a business. It gives you that personal connection with your customers that your website doesn’t always do,” Martin said.

Martin said she has seen more and more businesses starting up corporate Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

“People have taken to Facebook pages. They are beginning to understand how important that can be in attracting a certain sector of their clientele,” Martin said.

While many businesses in Scarborough have seen the power of social media to help connect with customers, others, such as MaineGroceryDelivery.com, are conducting business almost exclusively online.

In August 2010, Ami DeRienzo started MaineGroceryDelivery.com, a business in which customers can go online to a virtual grocery store and place orders. DeRienzo then heads to the brick and mortar store to pick up the order and deliver it to the customer.

DeRienzo said her business wouldn’t— and couldn’t—exist without the power of the Internet.

“The majority of my customers never would have found me if it were not for Google and other search engines available on the Internet. In the summer, for instance, many of my customers are ou-of-state residents who are renting properties either at Pine Point or Higgins Beach,” DeRienzo wrote in an email to the Leader. “Being that online grocery stores are prevalent in other states, many renters search online for businesses in Maine providing grocery delivery service and that is how they ultimately connect with my business. Being the only online grocery store offering delivery in Southern Maine, MaineGroceryDelivery.Com is fortunate to appear at the top of most search engines, which helps customers find us.”

Facebook, DeRienzo wrote, has helped her connect with new customers and explain the concept of her business, which is gaining in popularity in other parts of the nation.

“People have a lot of questions about how an online grocery store works. The biggest hurdle is to simply get people to visit the website and see for themselves how easy it is,” she wrote.

“With social media, posting a link serves as a gateway between a potential customer and my business. In addition to Facebook, my business software also allows me to generate an online sales flier that can be emailed out to customers, saving paper and reducing the carbon imprint that is left through traditional sales fliers.”

According to DeRienzo, it is not only a business like hers that benefits from online communication with customers.

“I believe that having a good website and an online presence are critical in today’s business world. Gone are the days of the phone book and the yellow pages,” DeRienzo wrote. “The majority of the population today turn to their computers or cell phone devices to find a phone number, to read business reviews, or to express praise or criticism for the service or goods they may receive.

A business’ reputation can be destroyed overnight through the power of social media, but it can also be given wings to the point where it takes off without having to make costly investments in traditional advertising methods.”

MaineGroceryDelivery.com, DeRienzo noted, relieves the hassle of going to the store for her customers, whether they are an elderly couple, a single parent, or a family trying to balance it all.

That, however, would not be possible without the Internet and the power of online communication.

Martin said Eventective, a business that recently joined SEDCO’s online business directory, also wouldn’t exist without the latest in technology.

“Without being web savvy, they would not exist,” Martin said of Eventective, an online event-planning directory for private events such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays or corporate events, such as business meetings or retreats in the United States and Canada.

The business moved to Scarborough from Portland three months ago. It was founded in 2003 by former Scarborough resident Alan Hyman, who also started jobsinme.com.

Derrick Morin, the company’s chief technical officer, said, “We provide a matchmaking service for our clients. They use the website to browse,” Morin said.

Clients can come to the site and put in the type of event they are planning and the type of venue they are looking for. Once a match is found, Morin said, a client can contact the venue directly or continue to use Eventective to connect with vendors for photography, catering and other services.

The site also provides an online forum, which Morin said is a popular way for small business owners to connect with each other.

To further connect with potential clients, Morin said Eventective is active on Facebook, Twitter and with email marketing.

The key to the business, Morin said, is using search engines like Google or Yahoo’s bing.

“We try to rank well in search engines, Google in particular,” he said.

That has been a mixed bag.

“Our performance (in search engines) has fluctuated over the years,” Morin said. “It’s been a moving target since search engines all have their own algorithms and ways of cataloging information on the Internet.” Want to comment on this story? Login to our website at leader.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

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