“I hate the giving of the hand unless the whole man accompanies it." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Internet is a community, an international one. The access a business owner has to this community is a tremendous asset. Small businesses have the same reach that large international corporations do at a fraction of the cost, time and energy. There is an immunity to economic hardships, borders and language barriers.
In this level playing field the key to success is the same for everyone - contribution. Oddly enough, it is a subject that is rarely addressed during the conceptual stages of building a website unless it is already a part of the business plan. Contribution will influence the style and presentation of the site. It is also the key element that drives social media integration.
Contribution is the act of acknowledging the community and remaining devoted to it. Then the business owner only needs to listen to their feedback to reap amazing rewards. This process is the most productive dialogue a business can take part in, because the sales material that is generated from it is timely, communicative, and relevant.
Acknowledge the Community
Demographics is a great tool. It is a process where businesses can focus advertising campaigns to a narrow audience for a greater return on investment. However in the context of an international community and infancy of social media, too much concern over demographics is unproductive. The Internet is just too dynamic to sustain older advertising models.
One reason is that a large part of the community can feel alienated by the website’s content. Shifting attention from being strictly concerned about financial returns to a mindset of contribution means acknowledging everyone equally. Since the mainstay of a website’s contribution is sharing information, that information needs to be relevant to the larger audience.
Sharing information is powerful! It aligns people with the website’s purpose. This contribution creates loyalty and excitement. It engenders community.
A website’s product may be expensive, but when it is relevant to a loyal following they will acquire the money to buy it. According to ReadWriteWeb.com, “36% of social media users trust brands that have a social media presence over those who don’t. 52% of those users are paying more money for a product from a brand that they trust.”
A website doesn’t need the community component if it designed for a particular purpose. However, if advertising, search engine rankings, and visitor growth are important, these can not be accomplished without acknowledging the community.
A website’s relationship to the community is a long term commitment. The dialogue between the business and their customers matures as the website becomes more influential. What can start out as a token of experience eventually turns into a tool people will come to depend on.
Imagine though, gaining all of that momentum and then not updating the website for several months. Regular visitors lose interest because they lose the value they came to depend on. A website that is rarely updated might receive a few hits during an advertising campaign but will not garner continued support from the community.
Regular participation is a benefit both to the website and the community it serves. As the website gives more, the dialogue they receive in return is phenomenal. Foremost, it is much easier to write content when feedback has requested something specific. With this interaction the ease of which the content flows will be an inspirational experience for everyone involved.
Business is never slow for those who sincerely serve others. There is always someone in need who is looking for your experience. A website is an extension of your business. It is a contribution both to the local community and to the Internet.