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Website Promotion: Interactivity

Over the past several days, we’ve discussed different strategies for incorporating elements of Web 2.0 techniques into your website promotion plan. If there’s one benchmark that defines Web 2.0, it’s interactivity.

There are a variety of ways that you can incorporate interactivity into your website and promotional activities. You can include interactive elements in your site design, such as those that allow visitors to interact with objects on the screen or to compare views of an object. Implementing some components of interactivity require a high level of technological sophistication, while others are relatively straightforward. For example, having a small, thumbnail version of a product, and then enabling visitors to click on the image for a larger view or to see different aspects of the same product is relatively straightforward.

Another straightforward way to add interactivity to your website and marketing plan is through polling and surveying. Adding a new poll to your website each week can be easily accomplished with widgets, and can prompt visitors to return each week to see the results of the previous week’s poll.

For marketing purposes, you can also send out email marketing surveys to customers and potential customers. You can do “push” surveys, which implicitly promote certain products and services, or “pull” surveys that will enable you to gather information to more effectively market to your target audience.

Interactivity can be a valuable component to websites and website promotion, but ensure that it doesn’t get in the way of navigation or the larger goals of your site.

Next week, we’ll cover the aspect of Web 2.0 that has had the greatest impact: blogging.

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Website Promotion: Discussion Boards

We’ve been discussing the ways in which Web 2.0 can help with website promotion, such as multimedia, user reviews, and wikis. Today, we’ll talk about the role of discussion boards – also known as forums – in website promotion.

Virtually every website owner who has had a discussion board can attest to the fact that forums are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re unparalleled in their ability to add stickiness to a website. A good forum will draw users who will invite their friends and who will add perceived value to your site at virtually no cost.

On the other hand, though, unchecked forums can lead to the downfall of a site. Rudeness, profanity, and other bad behavior by users can ruin a site’s reputation, and such behavior is, unfortunately, commonplace. Yet, while forums require intense moderation, heavy-handedness can also cause registered users to turn on the site’s owners.

The bottom line? Forums are a two-way medium, and you can’t always control the message. When they work out, they can create a loyal following, but if you decide to launch a forum, be prepared to constantly put out fires.

Putting the shoe on the other foot, it can definitely be worth your while to participate in other sites’ discussion boards. Ideally, you should select sites that are complementary to yours and reach the same target audience, but that are not your direct competitors. Typically, you can create your own “signature” on a discussion board that includes your URL. If you become an active participant and a valued contributor, you can drive traffic to your site.

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Website Promotion: Wikis

When it comes to Web 2.0 techniques, wikis are the up and coming darling of social media. Essentially, wikis are a collection of web pages that users can credit and modify. Often, websites use wikis as knowledge bases or as an alternative or adjunct to other forms of user-generated content, such as discussion boards. The most widely known wiki is, of course, Wikipedia.

While there are many different forms of social media that you can include in your website, wikis can be advantageous on a number of levels. Because they are more structured than discussion boards, wikis become a quasi-permanent component of a website. So, for example, solutions to common problems or questions are available to all, and don’t drift down as they might on a discussion board. Likewise, sites that have wikis can take advantage of the depth and breadth of knowledge of their visitors, saving both money and time while adding value to a website.

There are two primary downsides to a wiki. First, information posted on a wiki is often seen as the Truth with a capital T, when in fact virtually anyone can post virtually anything. So, misinformation can become rampant on a wiki. The second disadvantage is related to the first, in that a wiki needs to be closely monitored to ensure its integrity.

Including a wiki in your website can help with community building, which helps with branding and customer loyalty. It can also be used in a variety of website promotional strategies, such as email marketing.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about discussion boards as a means of website promotion.

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Website Promotion: User Reviews

We’ve been discussing some of the strategies and technologies associated with Web 2.0, and how you can use them in website promotion. Yesterday, we talked about the ways you can utilize multimedia in banner ads, popunders, and on your website. Today, we’ll talk about user reviews.

User-generated content is a cornerstone of Web 2.0, and ecommerce sites are increasingly utilizing user reviews to help promote their products. There are three primary benefits of user reviews. First, they generally encourage interactivity, which Internet users have come to expect from websites. In contrast to a few years ago, when website visitors were the passive recipients of information, today’s Web promises users more of an immersive experience. The potential for customers to add content to a website is enticing.

Second, user reviews generate a feeling of ownership, so that those who write the reviews have a stake in the site. This can encourage both repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.

Most importantly, though, user reviews are perceived as unbiased, and essentially provide potential customers with recommendations for product purchases. Over time, user reviews add legitimacy to your site, and can even help you determine which products to carry and which products to promote via email marketing and other strategies.

So, if you want to take your ecommerce site to the next level, incorporating a mechanism for user reviews can be very beneficial.

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