At the end of 2006 and perhaps prompted by Time’s lead article declaring “Person of the Year: You“, there was a lot of talk about user generated content, thats to say information on sites being supplied by those using the site rather than those who set it up and run it.

There are many good examples of websites which work primarily on content which has been generated by the users themselves. Sites such as YouTube and MySpace are ones which have attracted a great deal of press coverage at the social end of the spectrum.

Business and Networking Examples

In business, there are equally impressive examples. Amazon contains a huge amount of product information but arguably more valuable are the reviews written by people who have read the books. Similarly, sites such as TripAdvisor contain lots of information but the dynamic part comes from guests who leave their own opinions on the hotels and holidays mentioned.

In social and business networking, many sites are primarily online structures or shells which allow their members to post articles, share information and advice or generally interact in forums. Their challenge lies in creating something which is appealing and then attracting users with similar interests who will use them and participate. Many do this very well and it shows in their success and their growth.

Collaboration on Business Blogs

But it is not only sites of this size which can benefit from this trend towards online collaboration and sharing of information. Your company blog offers the ideal place for exactly this type of cooperation and community building after all, it is targeted at a specific group

So, for your own business, look at the benefit that you can accrue by getting some of the stakeholders in your company working with you:

  • Sales & Partner Networks: companies with non competing sales or distribution networks can use their blogs as a central source of information that their partners can use to increase their sales and coverage, as well as share their own experiences

  • Internal Communications: from a company perspective, tap into the collective ideas that bounce around inside of a company with nowhere to go. Give them an outlet and a chance to be expressed. Using an internal blog, you allow them not only to be put forward but also developed as others add to the initial idea

  • Market Research: tap into the combined ideas of your most valuable assets your customers. Give them a place (open or private) where they can suggest new ideas or show how they are using your products and services already. It may be quite eye opening

  • Product Development: in certain industries, particularly in hi-tech, allowing developers and customers to put forward new ideas extends the type of research and product marketing that you can achieve 100 fold. You also increase the chances of developing a group of product evangelists into the bargain

As you can see, you don’t need a site the size of Amazon to enjoy the benefits that collaboration can bring – your business blog has all the elements that you need provided that you focus it correctly.

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