Step into the Web

by Paul Gillin


For small business owners, the benefits of blogs, podcasts, online video and social networks are so compelling-at such low costs-that you owe it to yourself to look at the opportunities.

You don't have to be a technology geek or a professional writer to take advantage of these new tools. You do need to be passionate and informed about a topic and have the time and commitment to write frequently about it. For most small businesses, that means an hour or two a week. Here are some quick steps to get started.

Find out what others are already saying about your area of expertise. Sites like Technorati and Google Blog Search will get you started listening in on the conversation. Set up some Google Alerts about topics that interest you and start getting regular updates on what others are saying. While you're at it, set up an alert on your own name to see when others mention you.

Once you find writers with similar interests, carve out a special niche for yourself. It could be your topic, your writing style or the approach that you take. Differentiating yourself is a matter of figuring out how your voice can stand out from the others. Even in crowded markets, it's possible to be distinctive.

Go to a free service such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com and start your blog. It's easy and you'll be publishing to the web in minutes. Contact bloggers with similar interests, introduce yourself and let them know what you're writing about. Link to them and ask for a reciprocal link. This is critical to building traffic.

Experiment with other media. Grab a cheap digital camera and take pictures of your prospects and team members in action. A fifty-dollar microphone and free editing software such as Audacity can have you producing Internet audio in no time. Annotate a PowerPoint presentation with voice commentary and post it for people to download.

Get yourself registered on the top search engines and blog directories. Technorati and BlogPulse are two services that show who is linking to you. MasterNewMedia has a huge library of directories and search services with instructions about how to submit your site to each one. It's fun to watch your blog climb the rankings!

Comment on other people's blogs and link back to your site. Be courteous and humble. Don't sell or deceive. Focus on helping your visitors do their jobs better. They'll quickly see the value you have to offer.

Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results. The most successful bloggers have been at their craft for two or three years. It takes time and commitment but the rewards are substantial. You'll never spend so little to get so much in return.


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