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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - Google Digital Garage Visit - 5 December 2018

The online world isn’t virtual anymore. Today, our presence online - even this newspaper - is often more real than the paper version we hold. For business, that changes how we trade. Our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even a seemingly old-fashioned website, are not the shop window for many businesses that the high street used to be - its the shopfront.

The internet is the first port of call for information and many of us, particularly those like me who have small children and find shopping tricky, if not impossible, need to shop online and get things delivered. This has become so important that over the past decade, having some form of digital skills has become an intrinsic part of growing a successful business. But building an online presence isn't easy. So choosing a guide in the digital world is important.

That is why I invited Google’s Market Towns Digital Skills Tour to the Angel Centre in Tonbridge, teach some of those essential online skills for businesses in our area, to help them to develop and expand, including overseas. They ran sessions from ‘Social Media Strategy’ to ‘Know Your Business with Data’, going from marketing basics, to some more in-depth data work. The turnout and the great feedback showed how important the information they shared was. They made it sound simple, but the information they displayed was complex and helped everyone target their efforts towards the clients who show they are interested. Using the Google functions was revealing.

People came from far away to attend, not just West Kent. One person even came from Luton. But you don’t need to travel if you missed it, unsurprisingly you can follow the course online! The Google Digital Garage website, whether you are a digital native and already have a successful website, or avoid the internet as much as possible you can follow the programme here: (https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage/courses).

To get a business online, expand, improve networking, and understanding the basics of code, are all courses to help you build your confidence, career or business. And best of all, they’re all free. So if you think you might benefit, or even if you think you’re already a pro, it’s worth having a look.

We have so many fantastic independent businesses in Tonbridge, and we need to do more to ensure our High Street is the shop front of our community giving us all a place to go, to just shop, but if we’re going to have successful businesses, they need to be online, not just on the street.

There are many other companies out there that can help build different skillsets and offer a wide range of businesses that we have here in Tonbridge. So if there’s a company you want to visit us here in Tonbridge who you feel could help us develop as a community, please let me know. I will always try to bring experts from government or business to improve our businesses so that they do better and our community prospers. We’ve got a great town but there’s so much more we can do. Please contact me at tom.tugendhat.mp@parliament.uk if there’s anyone you’d like to visit.

Georgie Welford