../Morning Post
Posted April 20, 2011


Small Business Solutions

Weave a Web 2.0 of connections for your business
By Denis L’Heureux

Ottawa - Small companies, which usually have limited networks and even more limited marketing budgets, can use the latest social media tools to reach potential customers, in their neighborhood or around the world. But first you have to understand your online options and identify what you want to get out of them. It can be daunting to keep up—so many choices!

There is one choice you don’t have. You can’t ignore what more and more competitors and “start-ups” are doing, and they are branching out online. Having a website may no longer be enough to keep up—just as most businesses today don’t only operate with a fixed phone line.

That means using social media tools in conjunction with established online tools, such as e-newsletters or e-zines (like the one that led you to this column).

Many of the new generation web tools, called Web 2.0, are essentially free to use with your internet service, or have inexpensive added features. Still, some businesses may want to turn to an outside consultant—or a web-savvy employee—to help make the best use of these tools. From EDC’s own experience, here are the three social sites on which we have focused.

LinkedIn.com: This is one of the most common professional networks for business people and companies. It lets you create both a company and a personal profile. By joining different “Groups,” which span a broad range of interests, you can easily connect with new people and learn from like-minded individuals. It can also be used as a recruiting and prospecting tool, enabling you to search for appropriate contacts and send them targeted messages. Recently, LinkedIn reported more than 100 million users spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

Facebook.com: Given that this site has some 600 million users worldwide (January 2011), more and more companies are establishing their own Facebook page and driving people there for information, special events and promotions. A company page is easy to create, lets you post photos, videos and blogs, and lets you instantly track visitors and fans of your content (through the press of a “like” button). The multiplier effect can be the best part – people often disseminate content they like to their network and so on and so forth. They can also circulate criticism, but that’s always a risk as companies become better known.

Twitter.com: This can be a great tool for the time-crunched small business. It’s an easy way for you to broadcast a quick message about new and interesting things going on in your business that you think your friends, customers and other contacts will value or enjoy. It’s also an easy way for interested people to stay up to date on what’s happening with your company.

Check out some other online tools that can be useful to small business website.

And if you don’t already have a website, you can get started more easily than ever using the new Canada Get Your Business Online program recently launched by Google Inc. at gybo.ca.

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