Using the best internet technologies is vital for the business nowadays
Blogging has become an important feature of the World Wide Web and is now an integral part of other emergent Internet trends such as social networking web sites, online video and podcasting. The word ‘blog’ is short for ‘weBLOG’ and can be thought of as an online diary or forum, where the author can convey thoughts on any subject he or she chooses. In fact, blogs evolved from newsgroups (or moderated forums), when users began to post in a more consistent, serialised style.
“How do find what I want to read?”
In May 2007, 71 million blogs were being tracked by Technorati (blog search engine) – in December 2007, it was 112 million. And in those figures we can immediately see the downside; with so many blogs out there, which ones should you read?
Google has a blog search facility, where you can find blog post on topics you are interested in. There are blog directories where you can browse by subject, e.g. blogcatalog.com or bloghub.com. Alternatively you can start with a list of blogs recommended by Magic Web Solutions. In fact, when you find a blog you like, you will find many other popular and worthy blogs on the same topic, as bloggers share opinions and exchange links between each other.
Using an RSS reader, you can subscribe to selected blogs and get updated entries automatically, each time your favourite blogger posts online. Google Reader is a good place to start, but there are many other readers out there and many other applications, e.g Thunderbird email client and browsers, offer the facility to display blog feeds, so that you can read them along with your emails.
“How do I start my own blog?”
Starting a blog is easy. They are two ways: either you subscribe for an online blog service, you can be set up in minutes with such services as blogger.com or typepad.com, or you can download an free /open-source blogging software and install it with hosting provider of your choice. Blogging software also allows you to host your blog on your website.
And to maintain a blog you don’t necessarily need a PC, as it is now possible to blog from any number of devices, including mobile phones.
“How do I get people to read my blog?”
There are some basic steps you can take to increase the likelihood your blog will be read. Firstly, tell your friends and colleagues and get them to read and post comments. Try to find other like-minded bloggers and link to posts you find interesting. In this way, it may be possible to have your blog site included on other bloggers’ lists (’blogrolls’, as they are called) and they will start to include links back to your posts. ‘Permalinks’ are permanent hyperlinks that link to a blog post, even after it has moved off the front page, meaning a blog post can be found days, weeks or months later.
And finally, if you are unsure about starting a blog, you may be more comfortable posting on a (business) social networking site, such as ecademy.com, where you likely to a more receptive audience for your ideas and thoughts.
“Why do I need a blog?”
We thought you’d never ask! Many companies have seen the value of blogging and in business, blogging is now seen as a bona fide and important way of communicating with the customer base. Google, Microsoft and Skype all have blogs on myriad subjects. It provides accessibility for customers and facilitates the exchange of ideas and feedback, much more so than submitting an online form, which just issues you with a confirmatory email (and then probably never gets read). Many smaller, younger companies have found that this is an excellent way to help them launch a new product or service; their blog will keep people in touch with developments as they happen, which lets the customer in on the process, shortens the feedback process and, if the product is good, those customers are likely to spread the word to other friends and online users.
Magic Web Solutions can help you to get started: we are proficient in setting up customising and maintaining blogs based on WordPress platform, please contact us for further details.
Marketing your Business via Podcasts
Podcasts are media files (usually audio or video) distributed online. Their location is made known via a standard RSS (or Atom) feed, which makes it possible to subscribe to particular podcasts and receive updates automatically. Apart from downloading and then listening to them on user’s PC or media device, you can access them as audio/video streams directly from the server that is hosting them.
Podcasts appeared on the scene in 2000, when Tristan Louis proposed using enclosures in RSS feeds. They rapidly gained popularity due to the fact that they could be used for many different purposes.
Podcasts usually contain a series of audio or video recordings dedicated to one specific topic. Traditional podcasts comprise works by the same author, but with a new form of podcasting – so-called “social podcasting” – they can now contain the collective work of a group of contributors. Once you have found the podcast you are interested in, you can subscribe to it using special software called a podcast aggregator. It will automatically start when you turn on your computer, search for updates among all the podcasts you are subscribed to and download them. You can listen to them when it is most convenient to you. It is even possible to copy the podcasts in the same automated mode to your portable media player.
Podcasts can easily be found using podcast directories, where they are grouped by theme.
To create a simple audio podcast, all you need is a microphone and any kind of recording software capable of creating MP3 files. Once an audio file has been created and processed to improve the quality (if necessary), it is uploaded to a web server and made available at a certain URL.
The value of podcasts for marketing your business online cannot be overestimated. If you regularly update your podcast with new files of genuine interest to your target audience, the number of subscribers will grow with time and they will spread the word about your venture. Of course, if you care about the reputation of your business, you will need to hire a professional writer to prepare your podcasts, a professional voice talent to record them and a specialist to take care of the technical aspects.
Podcasts are an integral part of what is commonly referred to as Web 2.0, play an important role in online social networking and their popularity is sure to grow with time, as the technology progresses.
Business Social Networking
Social networking is a modern phenomenon that has become widespread with recent developments in Internet and Web technology. Online social networks are also often referred to as “virtual communities”, which is an extension of the traditional definition of a community. Unlike a traditional community, the virtual one can comprise people living in different geographical locations.
There are a lot of different social networking sites, each with its own format. Usually, they allow people to make contributions and comment on the contributions of others. Such interaction can be achieved via any one of the forum thread, blog or club (group) formats and, in many cases, users are allowed to exchange private messages with each other.
A traditional forum (bulletin board) can be considered the simplest form of social networking site and, of course, it is a virtual community. There are many other, more sophisticated social networking formats.
Sites like Facebook, Myspace and LiveJournal concentrate mostly on providing their members with a convenient environment to express themselves – through personal blogs – make friends, contribute content to be read by others and otherwise communicate.
Other sites (e.g. YouTube) put the emphasis on sharing different kinds of content (in the case of YouTube it is video streams), though it is also possible to comment on the content contributed by others.
Social bookmarking sites (e.g. Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon) are in a different class. On these sites, you can bookmark an interesting article or a picture (movie/audio) you came across in a blog or other online resource and share it with others. Bookmarks that receive the largest number of votes from other members go to the top. Comments are allowed, too, to exchange opinions on the bookmarked resources.
Business networking sites, which are chiefly designed to help people establish contacts with potential customers, while still maintaining all the basic principles of an online community, stand alone. The most prominent business networking sites are LinkedIn, Xing and Ecademy amongst others. While typical social networking sites are usually free to join, when you join a business networking service, you’ll most likely have to pay for the privilege of having access to advanced features and the more you pay, the more privileges you get.
While catering to most people’s expectations, like the “sense of community” or the “sense of efficacy”, which can motivate users to join virtual communities and contribute to them on a regular basis, the virtual communities do have their drawbacks. Many regular contributors develop so-called “Internet Addiction Disorder”, which is considered a 21st century problem and, for some, it’s just as dangerous as drug addiction or alcoholism.
Another problem associated with social networking is spam. Once the social networking sites started appearing online, people quickly recognised their usefulness for business development. While there are a lot of ways to promote your business in online communities ethically and honestly (which usually means “indirectly”), people wanting quick results often resort to blatant spam, abusing both public and private features of the community websites to hard-sell their services to other members, mass-email the members of groups or “drop” (insert) links to their websites. The link-drops have another purpose apart from attracting people’s attention: an attempt at gaining authority in the major search engines.
In spite of all the problems, social networking is here to stay. It blends perfectly with the concept of Web 2.0, and the networking sites are growing in number and increasing their membership and income at tremendous rates. Many commentators believe that the importance of business networking in the continual process of promoting businesses and finding work will grow with time.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Sounds boring. No…worse than that, it sounds like something only the geeks in your IT department talk about, regularly dropping it into their conversation alongside talk of ‘RAM’, ‘CPUs’, ‘Gigabytes’ and ‘Hypertext Transfer Protocol’.
Well, as a technology, VoIP (also called IP Telephony, Internet telephony, broadband telephony, Broadband Phone and Voice over Broadband) is somewhat dry. It is, like a lot of technologies, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ stuff, but it’s the stuff which you do not need to understand to enjoy the benefits.
Here comes the ’science’ bit: VoIP is the routing of voice conversations over the Internet or through any other IP-based (Internet Protocol) network. Whereas traditional telecommunications involve sending electrical impulses down the line to carry sound, VoIP carries voice signals (in the form of data packets) using as its basis, existing internet protocols and thereby digitising the process.
But what interests users at large is what it offers and what it can do. One of the important, and undoubtedly most attractive, features is that an existing computer network can carry the data where there is the capacity, bringing substantial cost savings over a normal phone line. VoIP-to-VoIP calls are mostly free, whilst VoIP-to-PSTN (traditional phone network) are only the fraction of the cost of normal phone calls, because they relay the calls as far as possible over a computer network. The downside to this technology is that call quality is not always 100%, as data packets are dropped or delivered in the wrong sequence.
But this seems like a minor concern and since 2000, VoIP usage has expanded dramatically. Whilst initially, VoIP was pushed to corporate customers by companies such as Cisco and Avaya, who switched to VoIP to save on both call and infrastructure costs, it has now reached and been taken up by residential users. In just a few short years, VoIP has gone from being a new technology to a viable mainstream service, rivalling that of standard telephone services – or more than likely, replacing it, as telecoms operator upgrade. As more and more phone exchanges become digital (or part of the network) more and more VoIP calls can be routed in this manner and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now offer this as part of their ADSL services. Phone and computer networks are converging, forever changing the way we make and pay for calls.
There are a number of ways you can take advantage of VoIP technology. When using Broadband, many ISPs will offer users free calls using Internet Telephony. This usually entails plugging another handset into the ADSL line on a separately assigned number.
As an end-user, you can also take advantage of VoIP by installing one of the many available VoIP clients. Programs are available in abundance: Jabber, Googletalk and many open source programs. Even Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger) now support audio and video calls. But the one service to have had by far and away the biggest impact is Skype. Skype’s simplicity and ability to work with firewalls that break other VoIP clients, Skype has radically changed the landscape for web-based communications with a reported 150+ million downloads. With a headset and microphone or webcam you can make audio/video calls to other Skype subscribers or chat with them using the built-in instant messenger (IM) function. Video-conferencing was once the (expensive) preserve of big companies, but is now available to everyone with a simple webcam and a VoIP client. These applications allow files and data to be shared between user.
Skype – recently acquired by Microsoft – actually allows you to do much more and is at the forefront of convergent technologies and fulfils many of the criteria of a true Web 2.0 service. Skype enables the user to take part in public conversations with other users; with another plug-in, you can dial telephone numbers straight from your browser; but Skype is the first VoIP client to reach a large audience, offering users a real alternative to a fixed landline. In addition to free VoIP-to-VoIP calls, chat and cheaper calls to landlines and mobiles worldwide (with SkypeOut), non-Skype users can call Skype users on a ‘SkypeIn’ number and the incoming call can go to voicemail or be forwarded to another number.
But other companies are driving VoIP usage: Vonage has put its VoIP service on a USB stick, which means that you can literally take your VoIP service with you and then plug it into a PC and run the application and make your call. And Skype looks like it might have a serious contender in the Gizmo Project, which is offering many of the same services as Skype offers.
Beyond that, VoIP is being offered on cabled and wireless handsets, even mobiles, so that you do not need a computer to talk to people using the Internet. ‘Dual mode’ phones – supporting cellular and VoIP services have started to appear and ‘MoIP’ or ‘MVoIP’, as it is known, is expected to grow, once coverage for VoIP (over wireless networks) catches up with cellular coverage.
Contact us about your enquiry.