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Web Tools for Marketers

I had originally thought about writing about nifty web tools that would be useful to small business owners, but in my research I had discovered that there were a lot of tools that people could use to make their day more efficient and a lot more that is a waste of time. I looked at these tools from two perspectives, one from my own, a marketing perspective -- how effectively the vendor generated buzz about the product and the second, from a clients' perspective in how they might perceive use of the tools and integrate it into their daily business practices.

1. LinkedIn - for business networking, pick one and stick with it. Having multiple profiles across different business networking sites just means that you have to update them all whenever a change occurs. It's better than Plaxo in maintaining current information on networked contacts. Plus, your personalize LinkedIn url is search engine indexed, so that's like free bio advertising without having to do anything other than create a basic profile. Users can easily import/export, add or remove contacts. It has a clean, easy-to-use interface that turns click-throughs into converts very quickly. It's good for creating rapport and building a reputation online through recommendations.

2. LuLu.com - a self-publishing site for hardcover or paperback books, calendars, etc. Haven't used this site yet, but they essentially remove all the barriers to entry for the publishing industry. Anyone can self-publish now, with their service offering.

3. Walk Score - originally developed for the real estate industry, this tool helps users find local-to-an-address businesses, schools, parks, libraries, etc. It's not just for people in town or the recently relocated, any traveling businessperson can find a local restaurant wherever their company sends them. The site programmatically ranks sites based on how far it is for a person to walk, point to point. All the locations feed directly from the Google Maps API, and adding a location fairly easy too.

4. Any blogging site like Blogger, TypePad, or WordPress - use for personal or business or both, promote products, introduce new services, keep an open window with your customers. Blogger.com allows you to manage multiple blogs under one master account. This is the "new" corporate newsletter. Many blogging sites have their own built-in RSS feeds, so your viewers can subscribe and be updated whenever you publish a new post.

5. Podcasting - MP3s for on-the-go listeners. Podcast Alley has both a genre directory and how-to resources for setting up podcasts. This is one media area where format standards have not been an issue. Podcasts can often be downloaded to one's iPod, Zune, desktop, or other MP3 player. Businesses are catching on and publishing seminars, tech conferences, and interviews using this web enhancement for distribution and delivery.

Professionals don't have a lot of excess time on their hands. This next short list are tools that didn't make the cut because they add more micromanagement steps, they're hard to use, are not the right advertising medium, or they simply don't make sense in blended media business marketing strategy.

Twitter - A dispatch service for micronets, if you really wanted people to know what you were up to 24/7. It's not just for people. The service can be hooked up to plants (water me), tamagochis (pet me), and vending machines (feed me).

Facebook - This site is slow to change to capture the benefit of having business tools available; also their site policies regarding privacy and user-generated content aren't all that great. It's very limited, and speedwise rather slow. There are plenty of competitors of similar flavor, e.g., Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, etc.

MySpace - purely for personal use unless you work in the entertainment industry; the on-site tools just aren't up to spec for professionals. Sure it's free, but in this case, having a blog or your own web domain would be better than a MySpace account.

SecondLife - a virtual "3D" world environment that allows users to create their own virtual content (clothing, furniture, cars) of various themes, buy virtual real estate (with real US dollars), offers a currency in Linden (game) money. B2C ads from real-world businesses are flat, two-dimensional billboards that are gaudy and distasteful to look at. Slow pixelated movement may give some users vertigo when traveling throughout the SecondLife world.
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