We hear a lot about Web 2.0 these days. It sounds neat and it's trendy to talk about blogging and social media. But does it really affect our businesses? Is Web 2.0 just for kids and tech-hipsters or is it something we business owners should use to help promote our businesses?
I can't tell you if Web 2.0 is right for your business but I can tell you it's something to be aware of. Ignoring it means ignoring a possible tool that could be valuable in helping you get more customers.
So, to help you get started in thinking about Web 2.0 for your business, here are some things for you to consider.
1. Have a plan.
Don't dive in just because it's cool or because you read an article about it. Be clear about what you're trying to accomplish, how much you're willing to invest and what time frame you are working on. Like any aspect of your business - plan ahead.
2. Make sure your target audience is online.
Web 2.0 tools are fun but useless if the people who see your stuff don't want what you offer. Or if they don't look to the Web for information to help them buy what you sell, then your efforts will be less effective. Like any marketing channel, it only works if your prospective customers are there to see (or hear) your message and they are receptive to it.
3. Create good content.
Web 2.0 is the social web but it's still content-driven. Lousy content leads to lousy marketing, no matter how flashy it is. Make your content relevant, interesting and real. Put yourself in your customer's shoes and answer their questions with your content.
4. Don't sell.
Help, inform, educate but do not sell. Web 2.0 is all about people connecting by helping each other. No salesman allowed! Think education, not advertising. Deliver useful, nuts and bolts stuff or honest opinions they can believe. That's how you build credibility and trust that lead to new customer relationships.
5. Start with a free hosted blog.
www.Wordpress.com and www.Blogger.com both have very useful and simple blogs you can setup for free. Use them to start blogging and get a feel for how it works and how people use Web 2.0. Dip your toe in the water before diving in.
6. Talk to kids
Chat with some kids (ages 8 to 18) and find out how they use the web. They are the trend-setters. What they're doing now, the rest of us will be doing soon. Learn what they do and why. This helps you understand the web from a different perspective.
7. Do it yourself.
Web 2.0 is about being real. It's real people connecting with each other. It's okay to hire a pro to advise you. But to keep it genuine, make sure you or your employees create the content and do the work. Otherwise people will know you're faking it.
8. Buy a camcorder and start shooting.
Go to Best Buy or Radio Shack and buy an inexpensive camcorder, tripod and lapel microphone. Buy 20-30 tapes too. Then take a weekend and shoot film. Practice, practice, practice. Get comfortable being on camera so you're not nervous or dorky. Then, write a funny or useful how-to sketch and film it. Use Microsoft MovieMaker to edit and then upload to YouTube.com.
9. Buy an inexpensive audio recorder.
MusicBarn.com has a package that includes M-Audio's MobilePre USB recording interface. Add a microphone and you have a high quality setup to record podcasts and MP3 audio files whenever you want. Then buy NGWave sound editing software to make it sound professional and you're in business.
10. Surf 'till it Hurts.
Surf blogs, YouTube, Google Videos, Del.icio.us, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Technorati and other social media websites. Get a feel for how they work and who goes there. Become part of some social media communities. Make new friends online. Immerse yourself in the Web 2.0 culture so you know how it works and if it might fit your marketing plans.