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    Carey Smith on Creating an Online Presence

    What can developing a multi-faceted online presence really do for a business?

    Being online is a no-brainer, not least because everything can be optimised and gauged in a way it can’t be in other media. With Google Analytics you can measure everything.

    If you’re not understanding people’s searches, you’re probably missing your targets. All of this will help you learn how long people are staying on your site, what’s of interest, what applications they’re using. That will help determine the nature of your presence and how far you take it.

    How can businesspeople involve their staff online, particularly blogging? Should policies be established for who can and who can’t blog?

    I would advise business owners to institute the rule that their people don’t blog on matters that they’re not educated on.

    Decide what the purpose of a blog is, and who is best to run it. A flexible approach can work well; in our case, a local office may blog on local issues on which they have expertise, and then, as appropriate, draw relevant national blog entries from the nationwide site.

    As a businessperson, you may be an educator or a networker, communicating about your business and industry. It’s important to maintain a robust communication on these processes, especially with the advent of Twitter, which may mean new material uploaded to the web dozens of times daily.

    The web should always be used as a tool to grow and enhance the reputation of a business or individual, not damage or detract from it.

    How can using web 2.0 initiatives help a company’s clients?

    It’s about giving people more access. It makes it easier for people to share information, move it into their own network or spread it to a larger one. New tools make marketing on the internet even broader than before; rather than just sitting behind a URL, a company can now source information and put it wherever it likes.

    How can a businessperson balancing their budget between traditional and new media as a proportion of marketing spend?

    It somewhat depends on the business, but there’s no question that web media is more cost-effective, while other media is used as a value offering supporter to the web. The web can be used in specific ways – to offer promotions that aren’t offered offline, for instance, or to do marketing that a company can’t afford to undertake through traditional avenues.

    What are the best tools for a business owner to focus on? Do some have more merit than others?

    There are a lot of trends when it comes to web tools, so I would advise to not discount any form of relationship that the web could offer. In an environment that changes this quickly, don’t say anything is a no-go. Twitter, for instance, could ultimately prove to be a fad, or it could have staying power by evolving over time.

    As a CEO, what is your impression of what Twitter can do for a business?

    My impression is that it can communicate with people that a business has never reached before – it’s about reaching and engaging with audiences that are interested in you.

    It’s like an online subscription, based on the fact that the recipient wants to receive the information you want to share. The fact that Twitter is in real time – is today’s news – is a big part of its appeal.

    Should staff be encouraged to have an individual web presence, such as on Linkedin.com and the new Google profile?

    There’s a fine line between social and business networking, and staff should have the freedom to have their own life online.

    Having said that, every agent within Ray White has a profile. There are many areas of cross-over – for example, the question of whether products or services should be marketed on Facebook remains open.

    Part of the issue is that the social networking sites have probably not clearly defined what they’re about. Companies need to be aware of the functions of the different sites and the conventions around how they are used, to get the most out of them and to ensure that they don’t unwittingly put themselves at risk commercially or reputationally.

    This interview was prepared by Alexander Communication – Dwyane Alexander

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