All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
AxisPortals quotes Shakespeare this morning for two reasons. First, she loves the Bard of Avon, and does hate to miss an opportunity to work in some of those classic lines. Second and more importantly, though, it occurs to AxisPortals that all the world’s a multimedia, interactive social network, and that the wise small business will therefore provide its web visitors with plenty of opportunities–plenty of entrances, if you will–to interact with both the site and with the business itself.
So, how to go about making your website not only a static web presence, but an active staging area for forging interactions, relationships, and connections? Here are few quick and simple approaches:
- Icons and Badges and Buttons, Oh My! The major social and business networking platforms all make it very easy to create attractive, clickable connections to your profiles so that visitors can quickly connect to you and interact with you. FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, for instance, all provide easy, built-in badge or widget creation tools. Some of these simply provide links to your social networking profile. Others actually display your status updates and activities. Simply customize your page to suit your purposes and the style of your destination page, then copy the code and insert it into your website or blog. Then, your web visitors can rapidly scan your online network, and can easily connect with you. If you are working with a web designer, ask him or her to work with you to ensure that your website and/or blog include badges that represent your main public social and business networking profiles.
- It’s Alive, It’s Alive: Every website does need some core information that is relatively static (though religiously kept fresh and up to date) and always easy to find. For instance, you will want to ensure that your contact information and product and service descriptions are stable and easy to access. However, today’s web is multimedia driven. That means that your small business website would do well to incorporate not only polished prose but also arresting graphics and absorbing audio and video elements that not only inform and create interest, but also make it easy for users to share your key content with others. Note, for instance, how effectively the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services have leveraged podcasts and videos to disseminate authoritative information about the Influenza A H1N1 virus. Multimedia elements bring your website to life, often quite literally giving it a voice.
- Feed Me! Websites are a lot like teenagers: they require nearly constant feeding. Fortunately, the web itself provides abundant sustenance for your business site in the form of newsfeeds. Select appropriate newsfeeds based on the nature and focus of your business. What kinds of information can you feed to your site that will most interest and best serve your visitors, whether they are current or prospective clients? Once you identify the relevant feeds, configure RSS widgets to match the style of your site, and embed the feeds in your pages. Embedded news feed widgets ensure that there are areas of continuously refreshed content on your site. Embedded podcast widgets are also a good idea, for they not only offer all of the advantages of a feed, but also add another multimedia element to your site.
- We Really Have to Talk: You might also consider adding real-time discussion tools to your site. If real-time web-based discussion plays a major role in your business plan and you can devote personnel to monitoring your online chat tools, then investigate paid services such as Bold Chat, Volusion’s LiveChat, or WebsiteAlive. If you are just beginning to explore the possibilities of real-time web-based discussion, then it might be worthwhile to experiment some of the free or less expensive tools, such as those offered by Meebo and CoffeeCup. Embedding your Skype badge also introduces an element of real-time communication to your site.
AxisPortals Aphorism: Make your website an active staging area for forging interactions, relationships, connections, involvement.