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Social media is an increasingly important part of the internet. But many businesses are still trying to decipher what it's really all about and how it can relate to their bottom lines. Naturally, not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and throwing all their resources at Twitter, Facebook, et. al.
The truth is that for many businesses social media makes sense -- in moderate doses. If you're a small business owner, chances are you don't need to hire a full-time social media manager and the only thing social you're likely to get from social media experts is a lot of smooth-talk.
If your company is on a budget and doesn't have the time and money to invest in tweeting and poking, a great way to get involved with social media is to make your website more social. The good news: this doesn't need to be complicated. Here are five easy ways to make your website more social without spending and arm and a leg or putting your neck on the line.
Depending on the focus of your website and the type of content you have, allowing users to leave public comments in certain areas can be a really good idea. If you're using a CMS like WordPress to run your website, comment functionality is already built in. If comment functionality isn't native to your CMS (or you're not using a CMS at all), comments still don't have to be difficult. If you don't want to build functionality from scratch, you can use something like JS-Kit's ECHO offering to embed comments and real-time conversation to your website.
A blog is a great tool for posting relevant, meaningful content for your website's users. Whether your company uses a blog to demonstrate its domain expertise through thoughtful posts about its industry or your company uses a blog to make management more accessible to customers and prospective customers, there are a lot of great ways to take advantage of a blog. Thanks to open-source platforms like WordPress and Joomla, setting up a blog doesn't require a degree in rocket science.
Although forums/message boards might seem very 1990s in this age of the social network, the truth is that forums are a great way to provide for customer interaction -- with each other and amongst themselves. There are a number of free open-source forum platforms, including phpBB and Simple Machines Forum. Or you could go with a popular paid option in vBulletin.
If you sell physical product and have customers who love to show off, adding a user-generated photo gallery to your site may be a worthwhile endeavor. Here again there are free open-source solutions at your service, such as Coppermine and Gallery.
Photo credit: Rob Thurman via Flickr.