These days, it’s not just birds that twitter. What some might define as online text-messaging, Twitter joins a host of other new-media tools like blogs, podcasts and social networks that not only help individuals stay connected to one another, but also help businesses market themselves more effectively.
If you’re still trying to figure out what Web 2.0 really means, and want to take your business into new-media territory, take some time to learn about three of the most effective new-media tools available to businesses today:
A blog is a Web site that can be updated from any location at any time. Easy to use, blogs are often supplements to, or substitutes for, company Web sites, and can be established for free or for a nominal monthly fee.
For a blog to be an effective marketing tool, it must contain enough keywords or phrases that potential customers might type into search engines when looking for products or services. Avoid industry jargon and get smart on the questions and words your audience uses.
Effective blogs are also transparent. By associating the name of an author, company and product to your blog, you build stronger connections with your audience and establish a personal touch.
A format for audio content delivered over the Internet, podcasts can be accessed at any time and for free. By working with a local PR or marketing firm, or getting equipped with some basic tools and software for podcasting, you can develop podcast “shows” that give your company an audio platform to discuss products and services, business tips and trends, or any other topics of interest to your audience.
For example, Microsoft publishes podcasts for IT professionals on the latest issues in technology. These podcasts introduce the IT community to thought-leaders within Microsoft, educate and make listeners aware of Microsoft’s resources.
Some businesses look for advertisers to sponsor their podcast shows or partner with other, more well-known firms to co-brand podcasts series for increased revenue and credibility.
Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Live Spaces aren’t just for making friends anymore. They can be powerful marketing mediums and by participating in them, business executives can position themselves as experts in their fields to targeted audiences, as well as direct viewers to their company’s Web sites, blogs and podcasts. Some sites, like Facebook.com, even offer users the option to build pages specifically for their businesses.
Again, think search engine optimization when participating in a site’s forums or groups. These venues are a prime way to get your company’s message across, so learn to be selective about what you say.
Finally, be street smart when using social networking sites. Make use of the privacy settings that limit what people outside your network can learn about you, and don’t post sensitive information on your site that might put you or your business at risk.
In short, don’t let the newness of new-media tools deter you from using these mediums to market your business. Easy to use, affordable and effective, the latest communication platforms are today’s marketing essentials.
Jane Dickson is the West Region General Manager for Managed Partners of Microsoft’s Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) group. For more free technology tips and other valuable information, visit www.microsoft.com/midsizebusiness.