Business & Economy Georgia Impact Society & Culture

Boot camp helps small businesses navigate the digital world

Athens, Ga. – Figuring out how to reach customers in the digital age can be intimidating for new entrepreneurs and fledgling small businesses. The University of Georgia is helping business owners learn how to navigate social media to their advantage.

Digital Marketing Boot Camps, offered at locations throughout the state by the UGA Small Business Development Center, are daylong sessions that educate small business owners on everything from social media tools like Facebook and Instagram to search engine optimization to compiling a comprehensive digital strategy.

“(Digital) is part of marketing today,” said Debbie Finney, director of the UGA SBDC office in Albany. “It doesn’t mean that marketing has changed. What we found is everybody knows digital marketing is important but they don’t have the tools or skills to implement a complete strategy.”

SBDC employees were already doing training in this area when representatives of the Georgia Technology Authority asked them to create a daylong program. The GTA funds the sessions, which are taught by Finney and two other area directors: Kyle Hensel from the UGA SBDC office in Savannah and Drew Tonsmeire from the UGA SBDC office at Kennesaw State University.

It’s a timely and crucial topic for small businesses today, Finney said.

“I would gather that across the country everybody is just trying to get a handle on how they reach their customers,” Finney said. “You can’t ignore it. You have to have a digital strategy.”

The class has evolved since it began about two years ago. As new tools and services become available in the digital world, the instructors have to adapt. Someone who has already attended a session would find value in taking the course again a year later, Finney said. A lecture on Facebook has been so popular that the instructors have made that open to the entire class instead of as a breakout session for small groups.

Phillip Cofer, who runs Total Technology Solutions in Athens, said the course helped him identify which tools work best for his audience. He plans to invest more time and money on his website and search engine optimization.

“(Digital marketing is) constantly evolving and coming from an IT company, it’s a moving target,” Cofer said. “You just have to stay on top of it. That’s why I was glad to see this seminar come up.”

Upcoming classes include:

Feb. 3

Feb. 4

Feb. 11

Feb. 24

Feb. 25

March 9

More information is available at