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August 2004 Archives

August 10, 2004

Many Small Businesses Do Not Need a Website

Social Wave's Merchant Profiles was fully released last month and as I helped a few small businesses online with their very own Merchant Profile, it's dawned on me that an independent website may not be in the best interest of many businesses. First, it's a pricey investment and keeping it current is an ongoing cost that few small businesses are prepared to take on. Second, for many businesses, they amount to little more than a small brochure of what the company does. Third, a freestanding website will fall through the cracks of all search engines if not optimized for Search Engines properly.

A lot of businesses try to steer a middle road and design their own website using one of numerous WYSIWYG online site-builder tools, which sounds like a sensible option, but most of the time, these websites that are supposed to represent their businesses end up looking like their first attempts to cook in the kitchen. There's more to cooking than a recipie.

If online personal profiles similar to the ones that are used in online dating sites have proven to be such an effective way of presenting people online, why has there been no equivalent service for businesses? I kept a personal website for years. Initially it was a a intelligent way of introducing myself to other people to make contact or form new professional relationships, but in more recent years, it became more and more just an expression of vanity. If my need for a personal page is just for the basic purposes of introduction, then I have a multitude of quick and easy services to pick from, even if the product they produce ends up being a bit generic.

A new Japanese restaurnt just opened up in my town. I set up a merchant profile for them and they asked me what I'd charge to do a full website for them. I made a ballpark guess and quoted somewhere in the $1000 range which resulted in very noticable sticker shock. It wasn't something they needed and definitely right now with them strapping for cash, it wasn't in their best interest to blow it on a website that would most likely end up obscurely buried in all the major search engines.

For these guys, a profile worked fine and will likely serve their immediate interests far better than a full blown site. If location is key in business, then search engine visibility is key for a business online. So why would any small business in its right mind decide to build a small stand alone store on a yet to be developed road when there are options to locate inside a well traveled shopping mall?

For small businesses, visibility comes easier as a collective whole and it comes much easier within an already established infrastructure that's proven to work. Some of the businesses that I've done Merchant Profiles for have started getting hits off of Google searchers within a week of their creation and some of the profiles are already ranked higher in searches than their owners' main websites.

I'm not sure how we've come to the point that we just commonly accept that people are more or less just out there for themselves on the Web. It certainly wasn't like this in the early days of the Internet before there were good search engines. Information always came in clusters and searching for information online was more like hunting for it and so it made sense to keep things together. Now there are powerful search engines that promise to make the world of disorganized information available to you and perhaps with that illusion, the drive to organize and cluster into more functional units has faded.

The glory of having your own website is not worth the price of isolation. Social Wave's Merchant Profiles looks to give local businesses a chance for not just online presence, but online relevance through collectivism.

August 14, 2004

SMS Shows Promise for Healthcare...for Now

CNN.com - Hospitals embrace SMS technology - Aug 12, 2004

As an ex-physical therapist and healthcare technology evangelist, this news article about Hospitals embracing SMS technology strikes me with two dramatic thoughts. 1) My, things have changed! 2) What an ingenious way to use SMS!

It has been about six years since I practiced as a physical therapist. When I left the clinic, I left behind a name I was making for myself as an evangelist of using information technology to improve patient care. I released a white paper online in 1995 titled, "Do Healthcare Providers Need the Internet" in which I presented my opinion that IT presents us with our best chance to make healthcare humane again. The response I got to this self-motivated effort was hardly encouraging. My attempts to promote my views were either met with indifference or even flame mail. An orthopedic surgeon was so irritated with my paper that he even went so far as to make fun of my name. Using the Internet was regarded as anything from foolish to reckless.

Given that I started preaching healthcare technology when the field resembled a playground brawl, this piece of news is a pleasant surprise. It also strikes me as an ideal way of helping patients keep their appointments. In most clinics and hospitals, when the patient doesn't show up, money is lost and time is wasted. Reminding a patient via SMS a day before and an hour before his/her appointment seems to be an ideal way to keep patients mindful without taking up valuable clinician or staff time to make phone calls.

Some people may argue that a phone call is just as good as an SMS reminder, but I doubt that patients would respond too warmly to someone calling with a reminder to be on time one hour before an appointment. SMS is not as invasive as a phone call.

I only question if it's possible to maintain the efficacy of using SMS to remind patients of their appointments. Getting people to remember their appointments and on schedule is not a healthcare only problem though today's cost-squeezed and high pressure healthcare workplace has a lot more riding on a tight schedule than say your auto-mechanic or a hair salon. If SMS is shown to be very effective in keeping people on time to their medical appointments, how soon will it be before auto-mechanics and hair salons get with the act and flood everyone's SMS with so many reminders that they start to tune out?

Social Wave Campbell becoming just simply Social Wave

Social Wave has been going by the formal name of Social Wave Campbell so far, but sometime soon, the Campbell part will drop out of the name and it'll just be Social Wave, but the local quality of Social Wave will not change. Social Wave will remain a Silicon Valley thing and there are no plans to expand beyond that.

A lot of new people have come onto Social Wave lately and many have asked what the expansion plans were and many were puzzled when I said that I planned to keep things within a very narrow scope of geography. As a fan of social sciences, an administrator of business information systems, and a longtime veteran of online communities dating back into the 1980's, I believe that local is the way to go.

My vision for Social Wave isn't about expanding it as much as possible. It's about becoming as integrated as possible within existing physical communities to improve community life, increase communication, support local business, and share information and resources for mutual benefit. There are about two million people in Silicon Valley. If only one or two percent of people living in Silicon Valley used Social Wave to improve their access to their fellow residents, a lot of change and a lot of good can happen. If this succeeds, it will be a truly truly unique success story.

About August 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Social Wave Blog by Sheldon Chang in August 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2004 is the previous archive.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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