December 15, 2012

Facebook and Blogger and Craigslist, OH MY!

When you don't have an advertising budget, you turn to the Internet, where almost everything is free and there are eight million theories about how to be successful using the Web. Few, if any, of those theories work, and those that do work are mostly due to dumb luck, but that doesn't keep people from trying.

The Internet is the world's largest free slot machine that pays out only when you're struck by lightning while simultaneously standing at the end of a rainbow.

As a small business start-up--unless you're a hot dog vendor or an optometrist who performs laser surgery from the trunk of a car--you almost certainly require some sort of Web presence.

Thankfully, my wife already had Craigslist covered extensively from her early days of buying our vehicle and, later, combing the site into the wee morning hours, scanning for good deals. As useful as Craigslist can be, however, it's not the most ideal primary Internet portal for a small business.

To be all IDEAL about establishing a Web presence, I could have registered a domain name and hired some guy in his basement to throw together some rudimentary Web pages. But, that would have cost money, and we never seem to have much in the way of that monetary stuff.

Alternatively, there are plenty of "free" Web publishing platforms to choose from, including Movable Type and Blogger, both of which I'd used fairly extensively going back to 2002. For our business front page, however, I opted for Blogger, because I sold my online soul to Google eons ago, so I figured I may as well get something back for that steep price.

With more than a decade of Web tinkering to my credit, I possessed just the right mix of rudimentary Web layout skills to throw together a passable online "store front," with some eye-catching images to lure the casual Web surfer. All the eye-catching images on the Web--adult or otherwise--can't complete a Web page without the right complement of search engine optimization (SEO) text.

SEO is an interesting Web-specific writing phenomenon, presumably conjured by people who weren't happy with the merely slow-but-steady decline of the English language and who really wanted to speed things up. Whereas Web-speak like "LOL," "BRB," and "IDK," set out to turn the Web into cutesy acronyms, SEO was created to turn online text into a world of outright nonsensical and repetitive redundancy. Together, Web-speak and SEO (the saboteurs hoped) would create an English black hole that would destroy the language and leave us with nothing but Latin.

At its most basic, SEO is an attempt to outguess the algorithms powering the Web's most powerful and popular Internet search engines, primarily Google. The idea is to convince search engine "spiders" that your site has the most occurrences of certain keywords, thus ensuring--when someone does a search on those keywords--your site will hopefully show up on the first results page.

Theories regarding how best to achieve SEO Nirvana abound, but they mostly boil down to formulas insisting that keywords be mentioned (x) number of times within (y) amount of words. As with any formulaic writing such as this, the end SEO result is about as fun to read as having a bear beat you to death with your own severed leg.

Thankfully, my SEO goal was to make "Antiquity Furniture" and "Rochester, MN" appear high in search engine results, which was actually quite easy, and didn't require text that read like it was written by "Rain Man" after missing Judge Wapner.

With a Blogger store front up and running, I turned my attention to establishing a Facebook presence, which is its own writing challenge, because Facebook is basically a social Internet living within the larger Internet--Facebook is the play-within-the-play of "Hamlet."

Facebook can actually be pretty fun to use as a small business presence. Because Facebook is essentially a social networking tool, small businesses can use a more free form, conversational approach for promoting a professional endeavor. While we stop short of using expletives on our store Facebook page, we do have much more creative freedom versus the more "formal" Blogger online presence.

I did tinker with a Twitter account for our store, incidentally, but I eventually decided Twitter just wasn't the right fit, at least not until our business--fingers crossed--takes off and becomes relatively popular. For example, if our Facebook page eventually acquires over 1,000 "Likes," it might be worth exploring Twitter further. As it is, however, promoting a Twitter account as a super-small business is a bit like screaming into a tornado; no one can hear you, and what the heck are you doing standing in front of a tornado in the first place?

We also opted to use a generic Internet e-mail address for our store, because it was the e-mail provider my wife had used for years, and it seemed fine for our modest needs, at least to start.

The primary problem with setting up and maintaining all these different Web-based small business portals--aside from the continual updating work required--is they all require log-in passwords.

And passwords are the Internet's way of jump-starting dementia, as far as I can tell.

Huh? What was I writing about again?

Posted by Ryan at December 15, 2012 10:13 AM | TrackBack
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