Thursday, July 13, 2006

Creating A Web Presence

I had a meeting with the director of an adoption and counseling agency today. He's a great guy who wants to use the internet to cultivate his business. He recognizes that he needs a web presence and he wanted to talk about strategies for updating the company's site and driving traffic to it.
I had the privilege to explain to him what a blog is and talk about how starting a blog enhances your exposure. I briefly explained the concepts of feeds and feed aggregators and the opportunity that gives people to hear from you, and interact with you, on their terms and at their chosen time.
We talked about some of the reasons the blog is such a great medium. None of these points originates with me, but here they are:

1. Writing a blog makes you part of the conversation - When you add valuable content to the larger conversation about whatever topic pertains to you, you provide value to your prospective audience and gain exposure. The key here is to make sure to be providing quality content, and doing it on a regular basis. Another important part is to engage people who are talking about you to make sure that they know their opinion is valuable. A great example of this is dell contacting a blogger who had trouble with one of their computers and posted about it. There are quite a few similar stories out their about things like this, and it's a credit to those companies who connect with the people who are talking about them.

2. Using feeds allows people to catch up with you on their time - In today's world attention is a scarce resource. People have so many things vying for their attention, and your website, or newsletter, is just another thing they have to remember to read. Setting up a blog with a feed allows people to capture your latest posts and catch up on them when they have the time to focus. One of the strongest features of allowing people to subscribe to your feed is that you don't require them to visit your site to get updates along with all the other sites they would want to visit in a day or week.

3. Email newsletters are going the way of the fax machine - Email newsletters are hardly much different from magazines. Most of us get more magazines than we actually read and they end up getting stacked up to read later (it goes back to the whole attention thing). When we never get around to reading them they just get thrown out, or in the case of email, get deleted. Combine that with the fact that if the content that may connect with a specific user is buried deeper than they end up looking you lose them. On blogs menus and tags allow you to provide people quick access to the content that is valuable to them. Content people with that and you are more likely to turn them into a customer, or in the case of a non-profit, a potential donor.

4. Passionate people are more valuable than paid advertising - If you are able to connect with people via the blogosphere, even if they aren't in your target market, they have the ability to draw more attention to you than even an expansive marketing budget could. Let's say in this particular example you were to provide valuable content on adoption: common misconceptions, what to expect, etc. People across the country can benefit from that information and you have the potential to make yourself the defacto online presence for that kind of information.

The beauty of today's internet world is that you have the ability to control your own web presence by the content and value you provide to the connections and conversations that are already going on in ways that never existed before. It's just up to you to take advantage of it.

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