IM here! Messaging brings business benefits to your blog

During a conversation earlier today, I was still surprised to find that many executives still fail to see the business benefits that Instant Messaging (IM) can bring to the workplace. Or, as an additional way for your potential customers to contact you.

IM is wildly popular with home users, but in a business environment the ability to communicate with colleagues in real time can derive real benefits. However, corporate managers and network administrators still remain divided over its utility in the business world.

IM presents some of the same benefits to business users as to home users: it allows you to communicate with colleagues, customers and partners at a distance in real time, like the telephone, while avoiding expensive long distance charges that apply during normal business hours. The growing popularity of Voice over IP (VoIP) services is taking some of this advantage away, as firms can now use the Internet to place telephone calls at a substantial savings over the traditional phone system, e.g. Skype 

Nevertheless, IM continues to be the communications method of choice for many because it provides more of a “personal” link than email, while being a bit less intrusive than the telephone. IM is handy for dual communications. For example, you can get information from a colleague via IM while you’re on the phone with a customer, without having to disrupt the telephone conversation.

For the small firm, IM can provide many benefits which are listed below:

  • Allows for "instant" communications between people. This can save time and money as you can resolve questions or problems immediately.
  • Transmits messages fast enough to allow for natural flowing conversation. Once you get he hang of it, you can easily hold simultaneous IM sessions with multiple people!
  • Eliminates long distance phone charges. Use of the IM over the Internet can eliminate costly long distance charges.
  • Reduces the amount of email sent and received throughout the day. Many people want an answer to a simple question quickly. IM provides this capability to facilitate quick and easy communication.
  • Ability to determine who is online and ready for a message. The ability to set a presence indicator is a standard feature of IM applications. You can easily see whether someone is available to chat with you.
  • Gives you another method to stay in contact with your customers and improve their shopping or support experience on your web site. The benefits are unlimited when you integrate IM with your existing web site or blog. The IM tool can be used to assist in sales on e-commerce sites. It can be used to answer support questions and even to push content (URLs or web pages) to the customer.

If your business is already using Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger) You can embed Messenger IM controls directly on your site. This will allow potential customers on the Web to reach you in Messenger by showing your Messenger status on your web site, blog, or social networking profile (Very Cool)

The IM Control runs in your web browser and lets your site visitors message you without installing Messenger first. Windows Live IM controls support IE6, IE7, and FireFox 2.0 on Windows and FireFox 2.0 on Mac OS with support for 32 languages.

I have embedded the code over at my other blog.  Feel free to IM me when I’m online.

To embed Windows Live Messenger controls on your own web site or blog, follow the instructions below:

(Hat Tip to Andy Logan)

1.Go to Sign in with your Windows Live ID, or create a Live ID if you don’t already have one

2. Turn on your Web settings to show your presence and receive IM from the Web.  (Note that if you turn on Web settings, anybody on the Web can see your presence and send you IM messages.


3. Pick a way to show your presence.


4. Copy the HTML from the page and post it on your Web site.

5. When a visitor comes to your page, they can click on “Begin a conversation” to start sending you IM.

    Note! The IM Control lets anybody on the Web to IM you. If somebody you don’t know sends you a message, you will see a warning like below in Messenger. The IM Control lets people you don’t know reach you. If you don’t want people you don’t know to send you messages, then don’t allow messages such as this one. If you want to always enable new users to IM you from the IM Control, then allow messages from unknown senders.



Children and family safety setting users cannot turn on the settings for the IM Control

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Do small firms really need a website?

Thanks to all for sending me a link today’s BBC News article, discussing whether small firms really do need a website?

The evolution of the Web is changing the way consumers are interacting with web sites and businesses. Online tools such as blogs, podcasts and wikis are allowing consumers to ‘actively’ contribute and participate whilst online. In essence, the web today has become more ‘social’.

As the BBC article states, just over half of the UK’s small businesses have a web presence. Indeed, this a very small number the vast majority of those with websites offer nothing more than an ‘online brochure’.
A few pages of business description, a list of goods or services for purchase and some contact details. As a consumer with endless choices to purchase good and services, why should I buy from you?

Unless a small business can offer something ‘different’, there is absolutely no reason for them to spend any time on your site. Businesses such as Wiggly Wigglers and English Cut are great examples of small firms who have used social tools to differentiate their businesses online. Indeed, both businesses have grown virally because of it and have established strong brands in each of their business areas.

The founders of both businesses have capitalised on the ‘social’ aspects of the web, along with an interesting way of revealing the nature of their businesses in a compelling way. Both firms create regular online content in terms of blog posts or podcasts which are read and listened to by their Internet audience. This ever growing audience has access to content which is timely, relevant and interesting. If the audience enjoys what it reads or listens to, it is more likely to make a purchase and five times as likely to tell others about it. Blogs and podcasts allow a small business to start a conversation around their own businesses. More importantly, it also allows them to shape the conversation, which may have not existed before, or was badly delivered in the past.

It is important to note, that creating compelling content requires considerable commitment and time. Wiggly Wigglers and English Cut were not overnight successes. It took a few years, before they were able to reach the hearts and minds of their respective audiences. They succeeded because they had something interesting to say and the social tools allowed them to tell their business stories easily,quickly and allowed their audience to also take part in shaping their business story.

If you already have a very close and tight relationship with your customers, these social tools may not be useful to you. However,  for the vast majority of small firms hoping to grow their businesses and access new markets, such tools are becoming a necessity in order to differentiate and eventually compete in the global market place.  Thus, to conclude I think it is very important for small firms to have a website today if they want to grow their business and reach new markets.  Using social tools can help. However, the small firm will need to think of interesting ways to reveal the nature of the business they are in, offer unique glimpses and insights into their industry. Customers demand some kind of value. Creating good and useful content can help to create that value.

Read excerpts of interview with Heather Gorringe, founder of Wiggly Wigglers below, as well as an excerpt of an interview with Tom Mahon, founder of English Cut.

Interview with Heather Gorringe (Heather Gorringe)

Interview with Tom Mahon (English Cut)