There's been a great deal of buzz focused on sites like MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Digg. These sites and many others (I do mean MANY) are part of the social media optimization phenomenon that is sweeping the web. The sites foster community building via information creation and sharing by the community, for the community. Creating and uploading videos on YouTube or photos on Flickr could create some exposure and lead to more web traffic if your content catches the attention of the community. You can also share information, suggestions and opinions on subject matters of interest. And if you write an interesting article which gets submitted to Digg or Reddit you could see a huge spike in traffic if your article gets promoted to either home page (Digg is a top 100 site and Reddit a top 800). That's some good stuff if you're into video and/or photo-sharing, or maybe writing and reading a lot of technology focused content. But what if you aren't?
Contrary to popular belief, most small businesses are not web-savvy tech startups. In fact the majority of small business are still involved in those boring, traditional money making businesses. And contrary to the belief of those traditional money making small businesses, there are places on the web you can use to share information and learn more about putting the latest technology to good "business use". One such site I recently came across is JumpUp.com. This site has many Web 2.0 characteristics like bookmarks, tags, showcasing community members, content rating and a few others. You can also invite other community members into your own private network which is nice. There are no RSS feeds and you can't write comments (you can only use 1-5 ranking scheme) so it's not totally on par with the above mentioned sites, but it has enough to work with. This is not earth shattering stuff, but what is really nice about JumpUp.com is that its target audience is not tech-crazed geeks (no disrespect intended) or overly-social teenagers (again no disrespect....), but entrepreneurs and those interesting in starting a business one day. So you'll see a lot of articles and other resources focusing on developing business plans, finding capital, marketing and other topics of great importance to regular business folks. And because its built with the some of the latest web concepts, it's a nice, subliminal introduction to some very important developments.
The really interesting thing about JumpUp.com is that Intuit put it together. Give them credit for "getting" small business and also getting the importance of using the latest web tools and strategies. They are one of the leaders of the old school software companies when it comes to embracing the new and wedding it to the tried and true. Hopefully other small business software mainstays will do the same. Plus they made sure that JumpUp wasn't a marketing site for their products and services, but a genuine resource and community for entrepreneurs. So do yourself a favor and check it out.
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By now most people have heard of YouTube. It has become extremely popular because people can view all different kinds of videos. They can also comment on them, email links to friends and add their own videos to the site for public consumption. Another popular but lesser known site is Flickr, whose popularity is built on sharing photos in the same way YouTube does videos. And there are a host of other sites built on the same social premises of allowing anyone to view, comment on and add content for all to see on the web.
While not nearly as popular, Slideshare.net can sort of be viewed as the YouTube for Powerpoint presentations. If you are looking for information you can incorporate into your website or blog, there's a good chance you can find it on Slideshare. If you put together some interesting presentation you can upload it to Slideshare and have people view, comment on it. Slideshare even makes it easy for those people who like your presentation to incorporate it into their blog or website. And each time someone views your presentation SlideShare keeps track of it. If it's really popular your presentations can show up on the Slideshare.net homepage, bringing your site a whole bunch of traffic, and potential customers.
This is a great way for you to expand your presence on the web by showing off your knowledge and experience by using a tool you're already familiar with. And don't be worried about someone "stealing your good ideas". The more you are able to create and publish on the web the bigger the pool of prospects becomes. This will far outweigh any negatives you may think of. So do yourself a favor and check out Slideshare.net.
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I'm always on the hunt for interesting information about how folks are using the web, and how that translates to relationship building....for business sake. Although I'm in cutback mode when it comes to e-newsletters, I do like the info the folks at Hitwise puts together. Hitwise is one of the leading sources of online competitive intelligence. And you may want to have them email you a copy of their November 2006 "US Consumer Generated Media Report". There's a lot of good stuff packed into the 22 pages of the report, but I'll just touch on a few I found interesting.
- People are spending a great deal more time on social networking sites
In September 2006, 5% of all website visits were to the top 20 social networking sites – a 94% increase compared to a year ago. Not only are they going to these sites, they are also spending over 27 minutes on average on these sites, compared to only 11 minutes for the overall website average.
The growth of these sites is being characterized by a term the report uses called “the network effect.” Basically this means that the more people join these sites, the more content gets created and people to interact with, which causes users to spend more time on the site interacting with each other and sharing content.
- More commerce is being driven through social networking sites
According to the report, the growth in web traffic to sites like MySpace is also driving up traffic to commercial websites. For example, upstream traffice from MySpace to companies Hitwise categorizes as being in the telecommunications industry grew by 89% between March and September of 2006. An 83% increase was seen by companies in the shopping and classifieds category, and a 77% increase for those in the Banking & Financial Institutions category.
- Photo and video sharing site traffic is growing rapidly, with its primary source of this traffic coming from search engines
People are uploading more and more of their own content to the web. They are also finding more and more of content by way of search engines. And with more and more people signing up for broadband access, they’ll be able to upload more and more of their own stuff. Which will generate more and more reasons to interact with people for personal and business reasons. There’s nothing more (and more) to say about that!
I’m sure many of you working in businesses that don’t sell consumer electronics, music, dvds and other hot sellers that social networking sites seems perfect for are probably wondering why this would be of interest. Well even though there may not be a direct link to what you do, there are some things that can be applied. Like GoDaddy.com founder Bob Parson’s told us in an interview, which is also proven to be true by Hitwise, “People love using the Internet for convenience, transacting business and communicating with each other.” And sites like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others have been great at creating loyal followings by enabling users to actively participate in growing the community. And it's not just the Web 2.0 companies taking this approach, Intuit has created www.JumpUp.com
, which is a nice social networking-ish site aimed at helping start-ups get off to the ground faster. So if you can create a web presence for your business that provides solid content and encourages collaboration, you’ll give prospects and customers alike a great reason to willingly interact with you. And it’s becoming increasingly simple (relatively speaking) to drop in all kinds of relevant content from sources all over the web to enhance your own content. Just look at all the “bling” (aka widgets) that are being created for blogging services like WordPress
and you’ll see how easily this can be done.
In the end, willing, active participants are more easily converted to actual customers, who can become real advocates for your business. Just a few words to the wise.
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