At the leading edge

Published 11:48 am Thursday, March 22, 2012

Justin Bickler stands next to his expanded tech work station at his business, Simplified Technology Solutions. — Eric Johnson/

Technology is taking over.

It has exploded for small businesses and residents in the last five years, and Simplified Technology Solutions owner Justin Bickler is on the front end helping people embrace and harness new possibilities.

Since opening his computer tech business in Austin, Justin Bickler has expanded to included a tech area within his location.

“Computers are built to help you, not to scare you or cause you stress,” Bickler said.

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Technology has become an important tool in the arsenal of small business owners, and Bickler said an increasingly vital factor has been social media.

“Social media is the new wave of advertising, the new momentum,” Bickler said.

Now, groups like the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and local businesses can connect directly with customers. For example, Bickler pointed to a receipt from a local store and an email address for the manager printed near the top.

“Five years ago, you couldn’t have talked directly,” he said. “Now we’re overwhelmed with opportunities to solicit feedback.”

Last year, Bickler helped bring the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Mower County Fair Board and other local organizations to social media opportunities like Facebook, Twitter and email alerts.

“This year we’re going to reduce our printing budget and switch to a social media advertising campaign,” said Bickler, who’s a member of the chamber.

These business owners can now receive more consistent feedback from the public.

“You can get an immediate result or an immediate impact,” he said.

Recent community efforts like Vision 2020, Paint the Rink Pink and Google Austin were key examples of how social media is taking hold. Much of the advertising and promotional efforts for the projects were done through social media.

But social media isn’t the only way the web is changing the advertising world. Bickler said companies can track how many hits their online ads receive, and some groups only pay for ads per hit instead of upfront costs.

“You pay for performance, which is a new model,” he said.

Other opportunities just add to a business’s tools. For example, Bickler helped set up an online ordering system for Steve’s Pizza.

Bickler sees more changes in the future, as he expects the one-way delivery model to turn more interactive and subscription based. is one example, as people interact and share information in two ways.

Other businesses are setting up computer-based security systems. Instead of a simple alarm system, Bickler can watch from home the cameras at his business and he can even watch the lobby from his office if the door is closed.

“It used to be you have to buy the whole system, now you already have the computer,” he said. “You just have to add the camera.”

Bickler has set up similar systems at local residences, and he said the new wave on the home front is baby cams. A few groups even have daycare cameras.

“Your home is now a technology center,” Bickler said.

TVs are a prime example, as many newer models can act as computer monitors and can play things like Netflix and Wii, which have both exploded in the last five years.

Computers have become a required tool for many industries. It’s also important for people to keep their information — like calendars and music — on computers, phones and tablets synchronized.

Now, he gives lots of free advice.

“It was all about ‘I have a broken computer, can you fix it,’ and it has evolved into ‘I have a technology challenge, can you help me?’” he said.

Customers have told Bickler they want their computer back quickly when it’s in need of repair. One person even mentioned that her family would be worried if she didn’t check in on Facebook.

“It used to be we’d call the neighbors, now we Facebook the neighbors,” Bickler said.