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How Web 2.0 Technologies Can Help Small Businesses Connect with Customers
By: Peter Koeppel
Published: 03/07 Small Buisness Technology Magazine

Web 2.0 technologies include a range of Internet-based tools that if used properly can aid your small business in reaching existing and potential customers, which can ultimately help grow your business. Web 2.0 technologies allow businesses to create, customize and organize content on the web, rather than just consuming existing content. Some of these technologies are blogs, podcasting, tags, social networking, RSS, instant messaging, wikis, AJAX and online and interactive video, among others. This article will provide you with insights into how to capitalize on using several of these Web 2.0 technologies to better reach your customers.
 
Blogs
 
Blogs are web posts or web logs that your business can create to inform potential and existing customers about your products or services. They help to build awareness for your company and provide a venue for receiving feedback from customers. Blogs are typically updated on a regular basis and they can include text, images, video and audio. They are frequently linked to other useful sources of information, such as your website. By supplying useful information to people who visit your blog, your company can become a trusted source of information, which helps build the credibility of your firm. Search engines such as Google like blogs that are regularly updated and have links. Regularly updating your blog and establishing links to it will help push your blog higher up in the search rankings, and it can also help move your website up in the rankings, if it's linked to your blogs.
 
RSS
 
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. RSS feeds allow your organization to send news and information to your customers. It also allows managers to stay on top of information related to your business, since RSS feeds enable a business to receive customized, relevant content on a regular basis, from various websites. RSS can help position your company as a leading source of information. This could translate into more customers and business for your organization, since new customers frequently seek out companies that are leaders in their industry. And RSS feeds are a perfect resource for small businesses, because there's no cost involved in establishing and maintaining them.
 
Tagging
 
Tagging enables web users to organize online information from many sources, such as websites, links, images, etc. A tag allows you to easily find information from different places on the Internet, whenever you need it. Tags can also help bring people to your blogs or website. In addition, tags allow people to share information online. You can utilize tools like del.icio.us to help tag URL's with keywords related to your business. Tags can benefit small businesses by enabling them to access and utilize information more efficiently.
 
Podcasting
 
Postcasting enables businesses to create their own radio shows on the web. The user can download Podcasts automatically, so it's easy for potential or existing customers to listen to your company's broadcast. Podcasts allow a business to broadcast their message unfiltered to the customer. They enable a business to have a conversation with the listener, which helps to personalize the company. It's also a great format for interviewing the CEO or leader of your company or an expert in your field of business. Podcasts can help enhance the image of your company among existing and potential customers.
 
Wikis
 
Wikis are websites that can be easily edited and updated by the users. They provide a great forum for people within and outside an organization to collaborate. This can also create problems for small businesses, since competitors, customers or anyone on the Internet can abuse or alter information on wikis. In order to avoid these types of problems, a small business might consider limiting access to their wiki or only allowing employees or managers access to editing information on a wiki. A wiki is good for documenting and sharing information, however a blog may be a better choice for developing ongoing dialogue between a company and its customers.
 
Online and Interactive Video
 
Many small businesses may not have the resources to run an advertising campaign on television. However, it won't cost you anything to post your TV commercial or a video clip of a key person at your company being interviewed, on your website. If you have a clever or intriguing commercial or video, you also might consider posting it for free on YouTube or Google Video, which are sites that are visited by millions of people every day.
 
Another idea to consider is creating an interactive video host on your website. The way this works is that when someone lands on your site, a video clip of the CEO or spokesperson for your company would greet the visitor. To gain the maximum impact from this technology, consider shooting video of your host so they appear to be walking onto your computer screen when a visitor lands on the site and have the host appear to be talking directly to the website visitor. The interactive host might talk briefly about the benefits of doing business with your company and point out some of the highlights of your site. They might also talk about the benefits of a particular product your company sells.
 
Also consider creating and posting various video clips on your site that a visitor can interact with. This helps to involve the prospect with the contents of your site. Video clips on your site should be short, :30 to :60 or under, since consumers have a limited attention span and might end up leaving your site if the video is too long or boring.
 
Web 2.0 Technologies Can Help Grow your Business
 
By experimenting and adopting these Web 2.0 technologies, your company can gain a leadership position in your industry. These technologies can help your company to establish itself as an innovator that customers and prospects think of first for leading edge information. By staying on top of the latest Web 2.0 technologies you can take advantage of these web-based resources to help grow your business and customer base.
 
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