BitDepth 675 - April 14

Building a presence in Web 2.0: The value of web conversations
Starting the web conversation

Mauroisvo Tomasini of speaks at the recent Web 2.0 seminar hosted by Colthrust PR and the Sight Factory. Tomasini emphasised the concept of a "squeeze page" to drive online marketing efforts. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

Here are some quick do's and don't for starting or evaluating your web presence.
First question. What are you willing to give to get attention, to engage your audience fully?
The best way to answer that question is to construct the response around the rigor of creating and updating a blog.
Now I'm not going to go rah-rah evangelical about the value of blogging. I actually stumbled into it when I restarted a website online in December 2006 and realised that the software I was using excelled at organising large blocks of information in blog format. 

Way back then, my primary concern was getting a BitDepth archive posted in a timely and organised manner, but it soon became clear to me that the blog format is a really useful way to think about posting information on the web.
You pretty much have to think about putting information up sequentially, which is good for the reader and good for your sense of organisation. Content management software is even better at doing this, but that drifts in the direction of heavy duty coding that's out of the range of most mortals.
The strikes against the blog format all boil down to the common misconception of them as a collection of windy, highly personal collections of verbose tripe.
Which they can be, though the same can be said of most novels.
The blog format can accommodate any kind of text, from opinion to poetry, photographs and graphics and embedded code. I visit local blogs that regularly post intriguing diaries in images, excellent think pieces and curatorial efforts to reference videos from YouTube, Brightcove and Vimeo.

Blog forward
So let's start from here. If you have no web presence at all, a blog is an essentially free way to begin thinking about the conversation you want to have with your potential audience. If you already have a web presence, now is the time to stop thinking of your web visitors as customers and start positioning them as an audience for your message.
If you represent a large corporate entity, this is pretty much the break point for you. If you can't blog regularly and honestly with your audience, then it's time to give up any pretence of participating in Web 2.0 and retreat to the safety of a pretty Flash driven brochure on the web.
There's no shame in admitting this. It's better to have a pretty website that's locked down by your IT department than to embarrass yourself and your company with half-hearted attempts at having a conversation in a medium that's already defined the terms of engagement.

Don't do this
I'm constantly surprised, though, by the number of people, including creative sole proprietors, who have willingly ceded control of their web presence to web developers keen to lock them into a relationship of unequals.
It's possible to have a web page that is easy to update and makes use of cutting edge technologies, but until you speak fluent webcode, it's best to think of them as two different things. If your web developer isn't willing to build a site that you can update regularly using a content management system, then you need a simpler website or a different web developer.
In terms of building an audience, a simple blog from Blogger, Tumblr or Blogspot beats a state of the art Flash art show everytime. Blockbuster movie websites are great examples of this. Everybody visits them once, but how many go back?

If you take this advice, don't scuttle your effort with patronising bits of salesmanship. Share information from the value perspective of your readers, giving them news that they can use or at least enjoy. Post regularly. Daily is great. Weekly is adequate. Monthly is absurd.
Open up the blog to comments and then moderate them for trolls and spammers. Deliver content that's consistently your best offering, add it regularly and remember, on the web, authenticity trumps salesmanship everytime. You're a click away from oblivion with each word.

BitDepth 678 -
Putting rubber on the road
BitDepth 677 -
Social mixing for success
BitDepth 676 -
Who's out there?
BitDepth 674 -
The Attention Deficit

A sampling of local blogs worth noting...
The Woodshed (Perspectives on Caribbean jazz)
Caribbean Free Radio (Words about the popular podcast)
Nicholas Laughlin (Contemplations from a literary perspective)
My Chutney Garden (Gardening, art, photography)
Trinidad Carnival Diary (First and last word on pretty mas and partying hearty)
Au Courant (Fashion)
Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (Local IT news)
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