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Web 2.0 and you: Technological changes offer business opportunities

The forecast songwriter Bob Dylan forecast made almost 50 years ago has come true in the business world. He wrote:web

If your time to you

Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.

“Change affords opportunities,” Geoff Wilson, CEO of 352 Media told a group who gathered for a meeting of the geoff_wilson_headshotsmallExecutive Advantage (www.theexecadvantage.com), a professional- and business-development group for Jacksonville-area CEOs that provides a forum for growth through coordinated discussion and exposure to expert speakers. In particular, Wilson elaborated on the rapid changes in Web technology, known as Web 2.0.

Wilson, who owns several Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stores in addition to running his Web design company, likened Web 2.0 to Ben & Jerry’s “Everything but the…” flavor.

“Web 2.0 has everything,” he explained. “It’s blogging—which is posting thoughts and ideas on your Web site or other people’s Web sites. It is Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, social-networking sites. It is also Flickr, a photo-sharing Web site; and Twitter, which has become popular in a short period of time. It’s online video—YouTube and Hulu—and user-generated content, like cell phone videos of news events people witness and upload to news sites such as CNN. All of this is part of Web 2.0.”

Social media is about everyone having a voice, said Wilson. “People who are going on Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn want to have a voice. They want to participate and have a conversation. These people want to form communities and be able to connect with like-minded people who are into the same products or services or who have the same interests.”

In a nutshell—from a business vantage— social media is about engaging customers. “All of these platforms give you as a business owner an opportunity to engage with customers,” he told the executives. The catch? “You can leverage these tools for free, but you have to put in the time to do so.”

So many selections

What is the best Web 2.0 tool—or tools—for a small business owner to use? “It’s not a simple answer,” said Wilson. “The answer depends on the demographic of your customers, because some customers will be “into” one type of social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, than others. He advised:

• Find out where your customers are. Identify their needs—what they are discussing.

• Enter their community. Help customers in ways in which they want to be helped.

• Don’t try to control the message. Just take part in the discussion.

• Don’t hard sell. “You cannot have a hard-sell mentality. You won’t be successful,” admonished Wilson. “Your customers are willing to embrace your business as part of the social interaction, but they don’t want to be sold to.”

• Accept the good along with the bad. If you give customers the opportunity to review your products or services on your Web site, for example, you have to accept the bad along with the good, said Wilson. “Many times, if you are very successful, the positive people will defend your company against the negatives. And they will do the best job of selling for you. That’s ultimately what you are trying to achieve.”

Geoff Wilson, CEO of 352 Media, was recognized as one of “America’s Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30” by INC Magazine in July, 2006. He can be contacted at 352-374-9657 or through his Web site at www.352media.com.

SIDEBAR

Use Facebook to promote your business

Web 2.0 includes a variety of social media, from blogs to YouTube. Choosing the best for your business depends on your customers and their needs, but one of the most effective of the social media is Facebook, says Geoff Wilson, CEO of the Web design company 352 Media.

Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn are all types of social media in which to network. In all of them, users complete a profile and may join groups. They post short status updates and link to friends and acquaintances.

“A few years ago, MySpace was all the buzz,” said Wilson. Facebook, though, has outpaced MySpace and has become a more sophisticated cyber networking tool, he said. He noted that Facebook users generally visit their pages daily (or more often), while LinkedIn users usually only visit their pages weekly. Because Facebook offers more exposure, he recommends using it as a business-building tool.

He provided several tips for using Facebook to promote your business:

• Create a professional profile. “A lot of people use Facebook for social purposes,” he said. “I use it for more professional purposes.” His advice: Don’t post information about your private life on your Facebook page if you want to use Facebook to promote your business.

• Build a large network. Connect to people you know as well as people you meet and ask to be a “friend.”

• Post business-related information. Give updates about your business and your professional status.

• Post events. Facebook has an “events” tab in which you can create a special event and invite people to it. You can also announce the event as a status update on your “wall,” he said.

• Join groups related to your business. These groups are comprised of like-minded individuals.

•Set up fan or company pages. Companies cannot have profiles, but you can set up a special page that gives information on your company.

• Advertise. “Facebook has really good targeted advertising,” said Wilson. “You can target by city, age, gender, level of education—all of these things.” Consequently, your ads only show up on the pages of people who are likely to buy your product or service. And, ads are relatively inexpensive, he added.

SIDEBAR

Social networking links

Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn are social networking sites on which you post short status reports, join groups, and link to friends and acquaintances. Twitter is similar to Facebook, except that users can “tweet” on mobile devices. Tweets are limited to 140 characters.

YouTube allows you to post videos, which can also be an effective method to promote your business, according to Wilson. Flickr is a photo-sharing Web site

• Facebook, www.facebook.com

• MySpace, www.myspace.com

• LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com

• YouTube, www.youtube.com

• Flickr, www.flickr.com

• Twitter, www.twitter.com

SIDEBAR

Confused about social media?

If you are new to using social media as a way to promote your business, go to www.commoncraft.com/socialmedia, where you can watch a three-minute video that explains the basics of Web 2.0 for business promotion.


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