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Small Business Owner's Guide to Understanding Social Media and Web 2.0
posted by // March 16, 2010 // Market Your Website
As a business owner, why do you need to understand social media and Web 2.0? For one, these online technologies offer a new way to communicate with and engage existing and potential customers, and many people have embraced them. The real motivator, however, is that customers are weary of being “sold to” and they are more cautious then ever when it comes to believing what companies tell them. As a business owner, Web 2.0 helps you move beyond simply “selling” by enabling two-way, real-time conversations. Social media, if done correctly, helps you gain the trust of potential customers, and retain the loyalty of existing ones.
What is Web 2.0 and how does Social Media fit in?
There is a bit of disagreement around the term, but you could say that Web 2.0 is the set of technologies that enables the Internet to be a more interactive experience. It’s the underlying technology behind real-time chat, blogs, RSS feeds, Wikis, photo and video sharing, and podcasting. Web 2.0 is dynamic versus static, sharing versus telling, collaboration versus individual effort.
Web 2.0 is often used synonymously with the term “social media,” although they aren’t quite the same. Social media actually takes advantage of Web 2.0 technology to enable two-way conversations online.
Social media websites are based on visitor participation and user-generated content. The term encompasses social networking sites where people connect and network, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIN. It also includes social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us and StumbleUpon where people bookmark and share their favorite websites, articles, videos and other online resources. There are also social news sites, such as Digg and Reddit, which allow users to submit a link to an article, image or video they like and vote on the submissions of others.
How to do Social Media Right
Social media is still in its infancy. At its best, it becomes a two-way conversation between individuals (or individuals and businesses) that takes place in cyberspace. This is still a relatively rare occurrence, though.
Many people, especially businesses, have simply adopted social media as a new and less expensive way to continue the one-way conversation about themselves or their offerings. While this may increase brand awareness, it doesn’t take full advantage of social media. It can even damage your reputation if people suspect you are just jumping on the social media bandwagon, but don’t really care about their needs, problems and questions.
The bottom line? Be genuine, courteous and responsive -- or your social media strategy will backfire.
Engaging Customers with Social Media and Web 2.0
Social media is not a fad, and Web 2.0 will continue to evolve – if you only have a static website (without any of the Web 2.0 technologies mentioned above) you’re already behind the curve. So where do you start?
- Review your website content. Try to see it from the point of view of your visitors. Is it all about you and your offerings? It should be about your customers, their problems and how you can help them solve their issues.
- Review your website’s usability. A “contact us” form is not interactive. Think about what you could add to your site to make the experience more engaging and user-friendly. Perhaps a blog or real-time chat? Maybe videos or podcasts? Or a way for visitors to interact with each other, such as a wiki or forum? Just remember to make it interesting from your visitors’ point of view.
- Enter the social media arena. When it comes to social media, many people become overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. Start with the ones that make the most sense for your business – look at the demographics for each platform (or talk to a social media expert), and determine which sites appeal most to your target audience. And remember, quality is better than quantity. You don’t have to participate in every social media site you come across, just participate well in the ones you choose.
More and more business will be done on the Internet. Even if you have a local business, your customers will appreciate being able to interact with your company and get to know you better online.