The Human Web – Part II – Small Business

Maureen Rogers posted a comment on my post “Business Websites with a Human Side” that got me thinking.

Your list is great, but would look overwhelming to an understaffed company with one product, little news, etc. Any suggestions for the little guy? 

Maureen’s right – the list does seem daunting, but in my mind, it can be done by the small business easily.  The trick is to work smarter, not harder. Here are a few points:

  • Regular content updates on the site (besides press release) can be as simple as adding a quote from a customer, updating a list of new customers, or even posting information on your most frequent customer support request (this helps to cut down on those calls in the future).  “Did you know that you can…”
  • Blogging is cheap, as the software is generally free.  You can make a decent impact by blogging twice a week.  I suggest one post consisting of something new and original on the business or a personal aspect of it, and the second post being commentary on an issue, either from someone elses blog or from the industry at large. 
  • Wikipedias – the really nice thing here is that site users actually build out the content.  You edit a little, approve a little, and perhaps add a post once in a while.  The time committment is slight, unless it really becomes a hit, in which case, you’ll be glad to put in more time. You can get a good list of free wiki software here.
  • Participating in online communities can be very easy.  I make a point of browsing several at lunch every day.  I try to answer one post a day on Sitepoint or comment on one of the blogs I read where appropriate.  Sitepoint has a neat “unanswered posts” feature on their forum that allows me to find an unfullfilled need easily.  Total time commitment: perhaps 15-20 minutes a day, while I snarf down my tuna wrap.
  • Automate the rotation of your products on the homepage, so that you can select your “product spotlights” for a month.  Make sure you have either a default product set, or you default to a random display if the hopper is empty, so you don’t leave a blank spot on the homepage. 
  • One of my small business secrets is that sponsoring niche communities is dirt cheap, and can be the best way to get in front of your core customers.  I know one software company that started out with a small group of about 10 people, and sponsored a web design forum.  They’re a big success now, and they routinely hear from buyers that they saw them first on that forum.
  • Alternate means of getting information – again, this is something you automate. Pull your content out of a database, and then you can automatically construct an RSS feed which is pushed out whenever you update.  Similarly you can reuse the content in an email news alert which again wouldn’t require you to manually format it.

The big idea here is to work smarter.  Apply a little time, and reap big benefits.

3 Replies to “The Human Web – Part II – Small Business”

  1. Mark – Thanks for responding to my comment. I hadn’t really thought of the Wikipedia angle, but I have a couple of small company customers that I think could do something there. I will check it out.

  2. I’m working on putting up a Wiki on one of my personal sites now. We’re still planning, but once we’ve gotten further along, I’ll post about the experience.

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