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Friday, June 10, 2011     Posted by: Jared Serfozo

There is no getting around it: the Web is now social. A majority of internet users want to be able to comment on articles that they read. People want the ability to share their pictures or communicate with their friends. When the average person sits down in front of a computer, he or she is looking to connect.

At Accrisoft, we regularly receive requests for social applications. We hear things like, "I want a Facebook application that allows my clients to discuss our new products," or "I want a simple way for my visitors to get to know one another." We are always glad to help, but we make sure that our clients understand one thing: the best social applications in the world mean nothing if there is no one around to use them.

That means there is no reason to create meaningful content if you don't have anyone to read it. It means there is no sense in in offering up your products for discussion if no one wants to discuss them. That's why it's crucial that you're working to build a meaningful community around your product or service.

There are three things to remember as you try to engage an internet audience:

1. Provide a link between your content and your community
It isn't easy to create content. You may work diligently to write a meaningful blog post, or toil over a gallery of photos from your latest event. Too often, this content is published for an audience to consume, but they aren't given a chance to respond.

Sharing content should not be thought of as providing food for your audience. Instead, you should think of it as an invitation to a table where meaningful interaction can occur. Don't just push content to your visitors—give them an opportunity to respond! A blog post is just the beginning of a conversation, and photos are an opportunity for your clients to share their own memories.

2. Allow the members of your audience to interact with one another
In a perfect world, you would be able to interact one-on-one with each of your customers. But this is unrealistic, so why not let them learn and grow by interacting with one another? Crowd-sourcing is one of the best uses of the social web—your users can tap into the vast resources of others' knowledge and abilities. Don't be afraid to let your clients interact with one another.

3. Give people a voice
Oftentimes we are afraid that allowing client comments can make us look bad. Sure, allowing your clients to openly voice their opinions can sometimes be scary, but the smartest companies are those that welcome client feedback and grow from it. Use the social web to give your customers a voice. Customers who are happy will serve as a marketing tool, and the handful who are unhappy will provide you with an opportunity to publicly respond with grace.

If you are using your website as a digital brochure, you are missing countless opportunities to engage and build a solid audience. Harnessing the power of the social web will allow you to create a meaningful community that goes much further than just feeing content to your customers.