Friday, November 9, 2007

Small Business Communities

To date, pure plays like Entrepreneur.com, SmallBusiness.com and Inc.com have been most popular in the Small Business arena. Each of these sites provide news, resources and some interesting directory-type products. Inc.com for instance, offers a franchise directory as well as a classifieds area specifically made for buying and selling small businesses.

On the CRM front, Dell launched a small business resource center site this year called Dell Small Business 360. The site was built to provide a service to the growing number of small businesses that after buying the Dell products have limited to no resources helping them to implement the technology or maximize its efficiencies. Sounds a lot like IBM’s trajectory…

With the obvious fragmentation in the small business world, it’s difficult for the major destinations to captivate engaged audiences based on relevant content. The sites are task focused in that they provide general resources for natural stages in the development of a small business. So where are entrepreneurs going to get more?

Aside from the rss feeds, selected blogs and industry-specific sites, there are no real communities that employ the same 2.0 elements as the social networks. Sure, there are forums and corporately sponsored communities like Bank of America’s. But from a user perspective, it would make sense to have one centralized community where they can build contacts and discuss industry issues.

Facebook appears to have a strong business community bubbling under the social aspects that make it so popular. There are groups for what seems like every industry from Web 2.0 to Automotive and pharmaceutical. To date, the communities are relatively benign in true activity but the membership numbers are staggering. Although this category is biased to early adopters, there are 26,836 members of the Web 2.0 group. But looking at other industries, it’s clear that niche communities are growing. I find it impressive that there are 1,726 members of the “if you’re a travel agent, you will totally understand” group.

A Small World is also very strong in the area of business communities. Although the angle is more exclusive, the site is quite effective at categorizing industries. One of the features allows you to search the entire global network by industry. In terms of geo-targeting, the site was built with this in mind. Invites to launches and city-specific offers are a staple advertising opportunity.

Historically, targeting industry-specific audiences online meant targeting with SIC codes across a network or looking for specific industry verticals. You could imagine how many impressions were wasted on the wrong audiences. These communities offer excellent targeting opportunities.

People like mixing business with pleasure and there’s room for more in this landscape. The key is developing a community that has appropriate demographics. The younger skewed communities like MySpace may not currently have the right membership mix.

1 comment:

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