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How Web 2.0 Can Help Your Small Business

Tue, Aug 17, 2010

Online Marketing

If you’ve never heard the term “Web 2.0″ before, sorry but you’re out of touch. Chances are however that you’re already familiar with Web 2.0, even if you don’t know it. Ever watched a video on YouTube, written on a friend’s wall on Facebook, or uploaded a photo album to Flickr? Then you’ve experienced Web 2.0. What you maybe haven’t realized yet is that it’s is one of the best places to build and advertise your small business and, yes, save energy doing it.

Web 2.0 is not so much a “sequel” to the Internet as much as it is a progression of it, or new way of looking at it. Back when the Internet was first popularized, it was used primarily as a channel for technological information, a resource for those working in the fields of computer science and data processing. These days, the World Wide Web is much simpler to access and more readily available to a wider variety of users, so its content has broadened and diversified to include virtually every subject of interest to any audience. The Internet has remained essentially the same: it’s only grown billions of times larger.

But you knew all that. After all, you’re using the Internet right now and you probably use it every day. What you may be neglecting is all the opportunity the Web holds for your small business. To understand the full capability of the Internet as a marketing, networking, and money-making tool, think about it in terms of Web 2.0. Specifically, think of it as a place to share your thoughts with others quickly, constantly, and in real time. Think about it as an organic, evolving hive-mind. Think about it as a world where words are spread out through time and place, where your ideas exist everywhere at once and change dynamically. Think about it as real life.

The key to working with Web 2.0 is to use your virtual identity and your “real” one, your brick-and-mortar business, work together to augment each other. With no online presence, your business might as well not exist. With no real world presence, your business actually doesn’t exist. Below are some of the sites you need to use if you plan to survive in the Information Age.

Facebook

About as important as having a website, “you do have a website, right?” is having an identity on Facebook. If the Internet is one giant city and each site is a building in that city, then Facebook is kind of like Grand Central Station: crowded, busy, full of tourists, and a great place to meet up with friends and family. For many, Facebook is the first and most frequented stop during a session of web browsing and it is the ninth most-visited site globally. Once you’ve established a fan base for your business, create a page for it and invite friends to join the page. Ideally the page should link to your main site and should be updated at least once every day. You can also advertise your page and target it to specific consumer sectors. It may not be the cheapest way to get traffic, but it is undoubtedly one of the most effective.

YouTube

YouTube is the most popular website on the Internet after Google and Gmail, and it’s one of the cheapest and most powerful marketing tools one could imagine. It’s also impenetrable, congested, and non-user friendly. And in case you think your videos will reach a larger audience, think again. Still, it’s a tool you need to use. Videos are a quick and cheap way to keep your content fresh and bring your site into the year 2009. It’s hard to deny the appeal of the instant gratification YouTube provides as well as its grassroots promise. After all, if Fred can make it big, why can’t you?

Twitter

Yes, it’s narcissistic, and largely pointless, but Twitter is the most immediate way to connect to your consumer base. It’s also a great place to build a lot of hype very fast. See for example website builder Moonfruit, which gave away Macbooks Pro via Twitter in celebration of its tenth anniversary. Using the hashtag #moonfruit, users unwittingly hyped the company for ten days, increasing traffic to its website exponentially. Again, it’s a gamble, but a relatively risk-free one.

RSS

If you blog, using an RSS feed reader is essential. An RSS reader provides a much-needed alternative to visiting the same sites every day, saving time and brain energy. With sharing, favoriting, and tagging functionality, Google Reader is probably the industry standard and is one of the most popular RSS clients. If you haven’t set your site up to be syndicated, learn how as soon as possible. Chances are you’re missing a whole chunk of your audience!

Digg/Delicious/Reddit

Digg, Delicious (formerly Del.icio.us) and Reddit are all “social bookmarking” sites, where users share news stories and vote for or tag those stories. Each site is virtually completely user-generated and maintained, but each has a different user base. Try them out and see where your site fits.

Remember, you have to be everywhere at all times to exist anywhere at any time. Better yet, sync up your online activity through your site or your Facebook page and show your costumers that you live in their world, not the other way around.

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