Modern marketing in an online world
By Eric Taub
IS YOUR FACE on MySpace or are you on
You Tube? Do you Yammer or do you Twitter?
Are you LinkedIn or Mixxed up? And whichever way you are, do you Digg it?
More important, do you even know what
any of this means?
Costco members Catherine and Stephen
Simms do. Two years ago, the Stamford,
Connecticut, couple decided to use the
Internet to build what was a hobby—
designing unique pet feeders out of wine crates—
into a real business.
Today, the business is thriving and picking up orders from around the world as people discover their company, Whiner and Diner
www.whineranddiner.net), on Web sites and
blog posts everywhere.
They got there by using sites such as
Facebook and MySpace as business tools. It’s
called “social networking”—visiting online
destinations where people gather electronically to be a part of virtual communities.
For business owners, social networking
sites are today’s virtual water coolers, giving
users 24-hour access to people around the
globe. It’s 21st-century marketing with a twist,
because the entry price is free.
“Your own Web site is your business’s
hub, but social networking sites let you create
spokes to drive people back to your site,” says
John Jantsch, Costco member and owner of
Duct Tape Marketing ( www.ducttapemarket
ing.com), a small-business marketing Web
site. Jantsch authored Let’s Talk: Social Media
for Small Businesses, a free electronic book
available at Microsoft’s Office Live Small
Business Web site (
The key to Internet marketing is ubiq-uity: making your business’s presence known
across a multitude of Web sites and discussion
forums. With perseverance, you’ll be able to
create some buzz, and soon people from other
sites may be referring to you and sending
people your way.
Here are some tools that can help you
position your business to take advantage of
the power of the Web.
Blogs: not just idle chatter
Blogs (from the phrase “Web log”) are
online essays that you create. Jantsch recommends that once you’ve built a compelling
Web site, add new blog posts to it three to five
times per week to keep people coming back.
Then create hyperlinks to your blog on other
sites’ discussion forums.
Also, create or join a network of like-minded individuals on sites such as Facebook
or MySpace. The payoff: Strangers may start
recommending your thoughts and your Web
site to others.
Join the conversation
With Twitter and Tumblr, members can
follow someone’s activities or allow their activities to be followed by others. Post what you’re
up to at any moment, whether business or personal, and others can keep tabs on you. Tumblr
allows users to post pictures and videos as well.
Jive SBS and Yammer allow employees of
a specific company to keep up with their colleagues’ activities and ask them questions.
Orbius provides tools that help companies
set up social networks.
“Your own Web site
is your business’s hub, but
social networking sites let
you create spokes to drive
people back to your site.”
Social bookmarking sites, such as Digg,
Delicious, Fark, Mixx, Newsvine, Reddit and
StumbleUpon, allow you to nominate and
bookmark Web pages (or news events) that
you think are worthy of attention. You can
also comment on others’ choices, while adding a plug for your own business.
This strategy worked for the Simmses.
Catherine posted pictures of her products on
photo Web sites. She contributed to online discussions about pets, always adding a link to her
site. And she promoted her postings and her
company on “social bookmarking” sites (see
below) that aggregate the best of the Web.
Video: your business in action
You Tube is the de facto Web site for posting homegrown videos. Businesses are using
You Tube and similar sites to post videos of
product demos and information. They then
link to those sites on their own Web pages.
Video watchers can also interact with a
community of other users, trading thoughts
and ideas about the clips they’ve seen.
Social networking heavyweights
Facebook, Friendster, MySpace and
Plaxo allow users to create or join professional groups, chat with friends and post personal or business pictures and videos. With
Facebook, for example, mechanics could join
a group dedicated to a particular topic, such
as “muscle car lovers” to exchange ideas.
Virtual worlds, such as Second Life,
enable users to socialize with each other in
different online environments that resemble
towns. Businesses can meet up with their
employees and promote their wares to other
users by creating shops within these worlds
that anyone can visit.
Professional online networking
LinkedIn and Ryze offer professionals a
place to congregate, find “friends,” link up
through the recommendations of others and
search for jobs and employees.
The Simmses didn’t use all of these
options, but online social networking strategies have certainly worked for them.
“Everyone is crying about the economy,
but we’re doing really well,” Catherine Simms
says. “While I spend several hours per week
updating our Internet presence, we have not
spent one dime on advertising.” C
California freelancer Eric Taub writes regularly
about technology and consumer electronics.