What can Web 2.0 mean to small businesses

Web20_bigIt’s almost impossible to find a company today that does not have a website that provides at least information about the company and ways to make contact. This is known as Web Technology 1.0, and it favors large businesses with significant resources to apply to their web presence. Today, meet Web 2.0, the next generation of internet-based information sharing. It’s richer and deeper in content, and broader in scope. So, what exactly is Web 2.0, and how can your small business take advantage of this new technology?

What is Web 2.0?

In the good old days (about four years ago), the web was comprised of sites published by companies that described their services and products – it was often nothing more than advertising. The web was flat and the information flow was one way.

Web 2.0, on the other hand, favors quality information content and supports interaction. To appreciate Web 2.0’s advances, it is helpful to understand why people use the internet. As well stated by Janice Redish in her book on writing web content that works, “People come to the internet to answer a question or get help completing a task. They want information that is easy to find and understand, is accurate, up to date, and credible.” Web 2.0 is all about content that provides real information.

Because many people now have access to broadband which supports fast downloads of data, Web 2.0 encourages expanding content types to include audio and video presentations. Finally, Web 2.0 takes advantage of links and tags. Links are websites referenced in your writing that add related content to the topic. Clicking on the link takes your visitor to the referenced site. Tags are metadata, which is data about, well, data. According to Master Media News, “A tag is a relevant keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (a picture, a geographic map, a blog entry, a video clip, etc.), thus describing the item and enabling keyword-based classification and search of information.”

How Web 2.0 can help your small business

Web 2.0 can level the playing field between you and your larger competitors – those with bigger budgets. Remember: web searchers do not care if you are a large, well-established company or a small business just getting started. They simply want information and help. If you do that well, you will be perceived as credible, and you may win over a new customer.

Your website embraces Web 2.0 by offering meaningful articles about your products, the technology behind them, and by helping buyers make an informed purchase decision. This is not selling; rather, you are educating and helping. When implementing the Web 2.0 philosophy, your site provides links to other sites that may help a customer or potential customer, even if that means mentioning a competitor. You are solving the searchers’ challenges by doing some of the search work for them. You can also encourage your visitors to add comments or suggest additional links.

A powerful way to use Web 2.0 strategies is to post short, how-to videos about your products. For many people, pictures are more believable and provide better training than words. Think of the questions customers ask you, and offer video answers with the credibility of an expert.

If this all seems to be beyond your capability, ask your IT consultants to help. Your IT consultant can add interactive services to your site and help create video and audio files, as well as suggest low-cost methods to increase the quality and quantity of information on your site.

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