The Right Way to Use Web 2.0

Entrepreneurs are eager to use the rapidly emerging social networks and blogging tools to get closer to their customers, but first they need to develop a business strategy, according to members of a high-profile panel in a recent discussion at the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest. Panelists included representatives of Technorati, Facebook, and Wetpaint, who offered the following suggestions for best using Web 2.0 techniques:

• Define the business goals your business can achieve by creating a community. One panelist described how Victoria’s Secret created a Facebook community around “Pink,” a line of sweat suits, before the line was even launched. The company successfully used “a two-way dialogue” to build up advance sales for the new product.

• Don’t automatically give up on old marketing techniques in favor of Web 2.0. One panelist asked the audience how many have bought products based on TV advertising vs. Web advertising, and the TV side won out by a large margin. “People are sometimes too willing to abandon” tried-and-true marketing tools, noted a panelist.

• Go beyond starting a conversation with customers. While getting people talking is a good start, “You have to listen to people when they come” to a blog, noted a panelist. Because people tend to trust their own personal social networks more than any particular company, entrepreneurs must demonstrate their organizations are worthy of trust by applying feedback to their offerings.

Opinions Divided on Linkedin for Entreprenuers

The networking site gets mixed reviews in a discussion on the Harvard Startups listserv.
One entrepreneur reports he is down on LinkedIn because “it depends on all its members responding to messages when one member wants to contact another beyond their immediate network.… In every case where I tried to contact someone two networks away, I found the gatekeepers asleep, so my messages were never passed along.”

Another says he finds it “to be very static. The network’s in place, but I’m not doing anything with it, partly because I’m not sure how to use it well.… I like having other people I respect in mine in the hopes that they will ‘meet’ each other, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either.”

Others say they’ve had the opposite experience. “As your network grows, the number of gatekeepers available to a given contact grows as well. Perhaps I have just been lucky, but the ones I asked to pass on a referral have been prompt and helpful.” The head of a startup says he uses LinkedIn “almost daily. Anything from finding valuable information about a prospect…to finding the next employee, finding contacts in a particular industry, geography, and much more.”

Must Social-Entrepreneurship Ventures Be Nonprofit?

Not necessarily, argue two Spanish researchers in a paper published in the Journal of World Business. Analysis of three success stories—a bank in Bangladesh, a hospital in India, and an educational organization in Egypt—”reveals a common feature: All three creatively combine resources…to address a social problem and thereby alter existing social structures,” write Johanna Mair and Ignasi Marti of IESE Business School at the University of Navarra. The Bangladesh and Egyptian organizations “fit perfectly with a for-profit scheme,” they maintain. “In sum, whether social entrepreneurs choose a nonprofit or a for-profit vehicle often depends on the particular business model and the specific social needs addressed.”

More Early-Stage Businesses Leverage Emerging Economies

Consulting firm saw the percentage of inquiries for global businesses increase to 22% of the total, from 5% in the year-earlier period, according to the firm’s chief executive officer, Bryan Howe. Examples include not just outsourcing computer programming to India and targeting suppliers in Mexico, but developing condominiums in Montenegro for wealthy Russians and selling agricultural technology to Tanzania.

Waqas Ahmed


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