By Brooke Chaplan

As the world economies become more integrated and interdependent, the need for international communication and connection is becoming more important for businesses big and small. Small businesses can increase their competitive advantage by improving both internal communication and external engagement with consumers. Below are four useful tips that can help your small business establish and maintain connections around the world.

Social Media
While almost one and a half billion people use Facebook, other international social media sites are just as effective with connecting with potential customers. Consider that almost every country has its own popular social media platform. For example, Renren and Sina Weibo are popular in China, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki are popular in Russia, Sonico is popular in Latin America, and Netlog is popular in Europe. Using local social media sites is a great way to engage international consumers and develop customized marketing content.

Global Office
While most global connections will be technology based, the traditional alternative is opening a physical office in a foreign country. For small businesses that have an established foothold in a foreign market, a local office is an excellent way to expand business operations. In fact, the incorporation process in many countries for foreign companies is simple and user-friendly. The U.S. Small Business Association offers resources for doing business abroad, here.

VoIP Solutions
VoIP started as an inexpensive alternative to phone services, but now offers broader technology solutions. VoIP technology in companies like Vonage now utilize cloud services like SIP trunking and their Telesphere programs to offer cutting edge voice, video, data and collaboration solutions. For example, any small business can use VoIP for high quality video collaboration and even real time webinars with other companies around the world. VoiP is typically preferred over traditional telecommunication platforms because of the affordable flexibility offered.

Online Data Management
For small businesses already established in an international office, effective co-worker collaboration is a constant challenge. Being able to universally access and edit documents, projects, and invoices is a key way to improve efficiency and reduce communication problems. While Google Drive is one of the most popular online document managing applications, there are alternatives available. For example, Zoho.com offers an integrated online platform for sales, marketing, finance, and even HR. Online data and information management will not only increase the quality of communication, but decrease costs and wasted time.

Social media and a global offices are all excellent ways to directly engage consumers at a more personal level and connect across borders. VoIP and online data management solutions provide alternatives to traditional technology solutions and can make small businesses better and bigger.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.