Federal technology regulation would hurt small businesses
- Katie Colony, along with her husband, Dean, owns and operates Colony Pumpkin Patch in North Liberty.
- She is a member of the Connected Commerce Council.
Digital tools like online advertising and social media have been crucial to our family farm during COVID-19 and continue to be critical to running our business. Low-cost digital tools help us reach families across Iowa interested in visiting our farm to pick beautiful sunflowers and pumpkins, drink cider, and enjoy the attractions that have made us a top tourist destination.
But I’m concerned that Congress will continue its attacks on big tech companies without considering that new regulations could seriously harm small digitally empowered businesses.
Digital advertising and social media have always been an important part of our marketing strategy. But when COVID-19 forced many businesses to shut down and a downturn in the economy eroded our already low margins, these became invaluable tools for communicating that we were open and running the business. air safe for families locked inside.
When searching online, free marketing tools like Google My Business make it quick and easy for users to see important information about us, including our hours of operation, our mask policies, our notices, and even our instructions. .
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Google and Facebook ads help let us know we’re open and only targeting people within hours of driving. Affordable and targeted ads were a godsend. Now, with the return of college football in action, we can target Hawkeyes fans with commercials for our Saturday Night Watch in Iowa.
Facebook and Instagram also allow us to share and promote photos and videos of the different activities we offer. You wouldn’t believe how much mileage is coming from a few people who like one of our posts.
I’m happy to say that despite all the scary moments COVID-19 presented, we are still going strong thanks to digital tools.
That’s why I’m surprised that Congress is preparing to pass laws that could change the way big tech companies offering these tools operate or even make it easier to take them down. A proposal would ban Google from displaying my free Google My Business page at the top of search results. Why? Because it’s kind of unfair to TripAdvisor because it also offers a customer review platform? Burying my Google My Business page in the search results will make a free but valuable service harder to use and may require me to spend more on paid advertising to get people’s attention.
But another proposal could facilitate the separation of these companies. Digital advertising is so effective and cheap because companies like Google and Facebook are huge and collect and analyze tons of data. Where will these businesses get the data that powers ad targeting if it’s separated? They will likely have to buy it from other sources or offer less effective targeting. We are potentially faced with less effective free tools and more expensive marketing.
Lawmakers argue these bills will promote competition, but digital tools help us compete every day with outdoor concerts, fairs and other local attractions. These regulations will level the playing field for billion dollar companies like TripAdvisor in their fight against trillion dollar companies like Google and Facebook. Still, I don’t see how they are going to help my business.
I realize that I am just a small business owner and not a policy expert. But I know Senator Chuck Grassley cares deeply about small business. I encourage him and other elected officials in Iowa not to ignore the dire consequences these proposals could have for small businesses.
Katie Colony, along with her husband, Dean, owns and operates Colony Pumpkin Patch in North Liberty, Iowa. She is a member of the Connected Commerce Council, a nonprofit organization that submitted this essay for publication. Google supported some of the council’s research.