Pahlka explains that because Web 2.0 is defined by user-generated content -- she calls it "a collective dynamic" -- small and midsize businesses can engage with their customers and create greater loyalty as well as attain market knowledge.
Significantly, she highlights the top three ways small and midsize businesses can get started:
- Search engine optimization: She says smaller business "need" to look" at SEO and she recommends that they hire a consultant.
- Blogging: If you're an expert in your area and you have things to say about your industry, this can be a very attractive way to reach out to your customers – not to mention a good way to get inbound links.
- Social networks: Let your users connect with each other or build a network around your product.
Pahlka addresses the fact that anyone entering the Web 2.0 arena needs to be prepared for negative comments. The truth is consumers are talking about your products and you might as well engage with them and respond to them, she points out, adding that Web 2.0, if done well, can essentially outsource your marketing to your customers.
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Web 2.0 tools can also be used by small and midsize companies for internal efforts: Project management, collaboration, and communication with clients are just some of the areas it could help.
But getting started in Web 2.0 can be a daunting prospect. Pahlka's advice for smaller companies: Start slow. Make sure you are listening before you speak, and develop a tough skin. You need to hear what people are saying, she says, but put your foot in the water and see how it goes.
Also, keep it simple. A big part of Web 2.0 is authenticity and, she advises, "don't be something you're not."
Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, always engage with your users through blogs, forums, and even trade shows, where you can connect with people -- because ultimately, that's what it's all about.
Naomi Grossman is assistant editor of bMighty.com.