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How to Make the Most of Web 2.0 in Your Business

Web 2.0 is still the Internet, but it’s different to what we’re used to. It involves participating in the World Wide Web through web-based communities and hosting services that allow their users to share and collaborate. Web 2.0 is the movement away from websites as simple information resources and towards a web platform characterized by freedom, participation, interactivity and sharing. So, rather than just reading other people’s content, you can create your own, comment on and even edit what other people have done – what used to be the ‘read only’ web is now the ‘read/write’ web.

The term ‘Web 2.0’ was coined by O’Reilly Media, an American media company, in 2003 and was made popular in 2004 at the first Web 2.0 conference. The name suggests that it is an updated version of the ‘old’ Internet, but Web 2.0 is just a new way of using the same technology. Some of the most popular tools of Web 2.0 are blogs, wikis, social networking sites and RSS feeds, which all allow users to participate in online communities and share content with other users.

A blog, or web log, is an online journal. Anyone can write a blog, and they usually contain images, music and links as well as content on a variety of issues and topics. A wiki is a website that allows for collaborative authoring. Visitors to the site can add and delete content, as well as edit existing content. The most famous of all wikis is online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Social networking sites are online communities where people can build a network of friends and people with shared interests. These sites provide many ways for the users to interact with each other, including chat, messaging, file sharing and discussion groups. weblogright Myspace is a popular social networking site for young people, while LinkedIn is more business-oriented. RSS feeds are used to publish website content that is frequently updated, such as news or blog entries and website visitors can subscribe to the feed to receive instant notification of new content. Most major websites have RSS feeds that any user can subscribe to.

The increasing popularity of Web 2.0 has meant the companies that own Web 2.0 websites are the target of major corporate acquisitions. Websites that were launched years ago by small startup companies are now being sold to global media conglomerates for millions of dollars and those that created the websites are laughing all the way to the bank. Some of the biggest success stories of the Web 2.0 revolution are YouTube, Myspace and Skype.

Even if you don’t have the millions of dollars needed to buy your own Web 2.0 company, you can still use Web 2.0 as a great business tool. According to Website Standards Association President James Greig, Web 2.0 is an excellent Internet Marketing resource for businesses of all sizes.

“If used correctly, Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and RSS feeds, can be simple and cost-effective ways of generating leads for your business, raising awareness of your brand, building your database of contacts and even improving your Google page rank,” said James.

“The figures for Web 2.0 are mind blowing – Technorati indexes more than 75 million blogs, 230,000 new members sign up to Myspace every day and YouTube gets more than 20 million visitors each month – so the sales potential is huge if your business can reach even a small number of these people,” he said.

“The best thing about these tools is that they are free, and you can integrate them with your other Internet Marketing activities to generate real and measurable results for your business,” said James.

“Getting your business name out there through blogs, networking sites and articles will increase the traffic to your website, and once potential customers are on your site there are numerous ways to capture their details, so you can add them to your database and continue communicating with them”.

Here are James’ tips for using Web 2.0 technologies to market your business:

o Create a blog – blogs are a great way to get you and your business out into the world. You can create a personal blog or a general business blog, and if your content is interesting and up-to-date you can attract many potential customers. Blogs are a great way to build relationships with your clients – sharing information in an open and honest way will increase their confidence in your company and strengthen their brand loyalty. A business blog allows you to position your company as the leader in your field by giving up-to-date information and interesting, expert commentary. Blogs are also useful in establishing a community around your brand that allows customers to share their opinions, and are a useful tool for viral marketing campaigns.

o Create an RSS feed – RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds can easily be placed on your website and visitors can subscribe to the feed. This means that you can instantly send your web feeds or online articles to anyone that has subscribed to it. Therefore, clients can get instant notification when you add new content, which will attract them back to your site regularly. These are useful for maintaining frequent contact with your customers and also for increasing traffic to your website. Also, getting your company’s RSS feed listed on other websites, particularly popular and important websites, will improve your Google page rank and get your business listed higher in Google searches.

o Get your articles on to article-listing sites – writing and distributing articles is a great way to position you and your company as the expert in a particular field. Once you have written an article and put it on to your website, register it with sites such as http://www.digg.com and http://www.reddit.com. Once your articles are listed on these sites, people can comment on them and add the link to the story to their own website or blog. When they choose to read them, they are taken to your website to see the article, therefore increasing the traffic on your site and exposing numerous potential customers to your products or services.

o Upload a video on to YouTube – like other Web 2.0 resources, YouTube is a free and simple way to raise awareness of your brand. All you need to do is upload a video, which can be anything from a serious product demonstration to a funny skit featuring your staff members. You can use serious videos to educate your customers about your products or humorous videos to give your company personality and get people talking about your brand. If the video does becomes popular, it will create priceless word-of-mouth publicity for your company and direct numerous potential customers to your website.

o Create a LinkedIn profile – this website is used by business people to network with other professionals. LinkedIn is free to join and you can use it to make some very valuable business contacts. It currently has more that 11 million users around the world, so the potential for building alliances for your company and reaching new prospects is enormous. All you have to do is create a basic profile of yourself, including your employment and education, and then you can start building your network and adding people to your company’s database of contacts for future marketing efforts.

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