If you spend any time at all online you can’t have failed to notice a whole set of new technologies that make up what is being referred to as ‘Web 2.0’ - wikis, blogs, rss feeds, podcasts. More and more, these are finding application in business. Here’s a simple explanation of two of the most common Web 2.0 technologies being promoted as useful to small business, blogs and wikis.
Contraction of ‘web log’, a blog is a diary of the writer’s thoughts but with entries displayed in reverse chronological order. Communication is two-way – readers who have joined (subscribed to) a particular blog can post their own responses and thoughts on the stories the author has posted there.
Examples: The Consumerist, Small Business Trends, Small Business Brief, SalesTeamTools
- Inexpensive marketing
- Build web traffic
- Low cost alternative to creating and maintaining a website
- Chance to communicate in an immediate and personalised way with customers and prospects to get new ideas as well as feedback on products and service
- Keep employees informed about business related developments
You need to publish well written, informative content on your blog on a regular basis to enjoy the maximum search engine optimisation benefits of blogging and keep readers coming back. More time will go into responding to the comments you receive and checking up on the links you have provided to other sites (users will stop reading your blog if they regularly find dead links in your stories). It also needs some clever marketing to get noticed and attract subscribers in the first place. You could use your customer list to let people know you have started a blog, make prominent mention of it on your website and list with a blog directory. Also put a link to your blog in your e-mail signature line and mention it in forum discussion replies.
A wiki is a website whose information can be added to, removed or edited by visitors. It derives from the Hawaiian word for ‘quick’. Think of a wiki as a shared whiteboard and filing cabinet combined. Wikis present a powerful opportunity for collaboration among employees and can be used to create a valuable organisational knowledge base of information people find it helpful to have handy ranging from policies and procedures to a list of product serial numbers or a directory of client websites. A wiki can be for purely internal use among employees or open to the outside world so customers and prospects can view and add to what is there as well.
Examples: SmallBusiness.com, HTC Smartphone Wiki, Corporate Underpants
- Useful repositories of information your people may need easy access to
- Support for collaborative projects – keep all documents in one place accessible to all project members
- Allow customers to generate content for you, for instance a bookshop could host readers' reviews
- Create a virtual call centre to answer customer FAQs
- Gather customer comment on products and services
Open access to wiki content (although some content can be locked down and untouchable) means that data is easily vandalised by removal of content or deliberate addition of misinformation. Some sort of editorial control and content review process is recommended to keep information up to date, relevant, correct, and to prune out problematic content such as defamatory comments and advertising for other sites. It’s better to avoid this intervention as much as possible. Let contributors know the rules up front by posting a ‘terms of service’ policy outlining what is acceptable.
If sensitive information is included in your wiki, such as employee details or product designs and other intellectual property, then implement a strict gatekeeper policy to control who has access to what. Employees will need some encouragement to start using it. You’ll have to market it to make customers and prospects aware of it.