To be or not to be. That is the question. In fact, there are many questions when managing an online small business network.
Small business networks and online communities are an excellent way to brand your products or services, to network and to build community with potential customers and to draw attention to your Website.
Like a memorable Shakespearean drama, the conversations between members in a community can instill great depth of wisdom with a simple pithy give and take of witty repartee if managed correctly.
So the question becomes how to best manage your small business network effectively to create the most value for you and your customers.
Whether it is one the size and complexity of a site like BizSugar, built on the Pligg content management system, or one as small and simple as your small business blog or Facebook fan page, here are some great pointers from the Bard that will help you .
Keep your garden weeded.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes of “an unweeded garden” and says it is a place where “things rank and grown to seed possess it merely.” In the same way, be sure that your small business network or online community is kept “weeded,” clear of spam and any other inappropriate content not simply to rid yourself of the annoyance of having unwelcome visitors use your small business community as a free ad space for their products and services but also because such inappropriate content will discourage legitimate users who may not wanted to be associated with a your site due to ads for everything from free get rich quick schemes to new music downloads having nothing to do with your business, products or services. There is also the danger that search engines like Google will view your community as a “spammy” site and downgrade your content in online results destroying all of your efforts in one fell swoop.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
Shakespeare may have been talking about being careful with cash and credit, but the advice can be extended to the marketing of your online small bvusiness community. When promoting a small business community online, we will do plenty of linking to other Webmasters, bloggers and online publishers as we build our network and grow our community, but be careful about arrangements that are too deliberate and obligate you to create links and use your site’s reputation to promote questionable content you would never even consider linking to if not for the linking arrangement you have with another Web administrator in order to build your online ranking. Link exchanges are generally not a great idea because they promote linking to sites that may not be optimum for your readers and can draw the attention and possibly the sanction of search engines. Instead, link to sites whose content you find valuable and in some cases they will link back on their own initiative effectively doubling the valuable content both of your visitors experience while on your sites.
The play’s the thing.
As the message of a Shakespearean play is communicated through the performance quality of the actors involved, so the quality of experience and information provided through your small business network or social media community will be connected to the quality of interaction amongst your members. Think of yourself as the director of the play, suggesting better ways for members of your community to interact to highten the level of interaction, preventing “bad actors,” rude or obnoxious members whose behavior is disturbing to other members and whose actions discourage rather than enhance interaction.
To thine own self be true.
Though Shakespeare was speaking specifically of a personal code of values, it is also important to decide the kind of community you wish to create and the kind of interaction you wish to encourage in your community. Develope a detailed set of guidelines for conduct and for the kind of content, comments and information you intend to share and encourage to be shared by community members. Then stick to your guidelines policing your community for inappropriate content and behavior and encouraging the kinds of behavior that adhere to your values as well.
Can you think of any points we’ve missed in managing a successful small business network or social media community? We’d like to encourage you to become part of our community. Leave your comments below.
(Shawn Hessinger is chief moderator and blogger for BizSugar.com, a social media site providing news and information to the online small business community. For more on BizSugar community how to submit your own small business content to the group, check out our “about” page or visit our BizSugar signup page to create your free account today.)