From simplistic, small-time teams operating from university dorm rooms to more ambitious, structured collectives looking to leverage chunks of venture capital for expansion, start-ups are springing up like mushrooms across Nigeria. Inevitably, the business ecosystem is witnessing an increase in the number of clones — organisations offering identical services or hawking startlingly similar products. Considering the prevailing situation, how can a start-up standout and also minimise cost in a world of stifling competition? Enter: Web 2.0.
Web 2.0, which is essentially the Internet as the interoperable platform which it is today, provides start-ups with tools that would otherwise cost millions to deploy (or years of training staff to equip them with the skills required to perform similar functions). Providing access to the same resources that large (read: older) organisations use to carry out their business activities, Web 2.0 technology has brought the playing field closer to being level and nullified the edge which said organisations have had for years.
Looking to found your own start-up or just curious as to how Web 2.0 technology can promote success in business? Here are five free/low-cost tools that will move you closer to greatness.
Where distance is an obstacle, Basecamp allows collaborators to upload, store, edit and share documents and files online. The powerful project management platform also provides users with overviews of project schedules and detailed accounts of tasks. Basecamp’s to-do lists and time tracking function keep tasks in order and promote their prompt completion while its in-built messaging system makes communication between collaborators a breeze. Over 4 million users across the world can’t be wrong.
Pros: Easy to use; Does not require software; Feature-rich.
Cons: Can be too simple; Minimal reporting.
Cost: 45-day free trial; Paid plans available.
Why do you need to be here? Isn’t it just another social network? Yes and no. LinkedIn is a professional networking contact management tool. In other words, it’s like a huge filing cabinet filled with perfectly organised business cards. It is also a people finder, providing access to the contact information of millions of professionals and organisations the world over. Established in 2003, the social networking site invites its members to connect with coworkers, clients, and business contacts. You want to be here.
Pros: Excellent networking opportunities; Search engine exposure; Can be used as a marketing channel.
Cons: Best for business-to-business sales; Spam is commonplace; Advertising is not highly targeted.
Cost: Basic membership is free; Paid plans available.
Twitter can help start-ups manage and grow their business in a variety of ways. With marketing, brand monitoring, and feedback only a few clicks away, it offers a way to offers a cheap, quick way of spreading messages and engaging with the public more consistently than ever before. The platform is also excellent for discovering competitors and potential collaborators. It’ll amaze you what you can sell with a 140-character limit.
Pros: Twitter use is constantly growing; Target market (and competition) research is easy.
Cons: Character limit can be a huge drawback; Streams move fast, making it hard to keep up; Spam is commonplace.
Cost: Membership is free.
Google Apps for Business is a suite of productivity tools including a custom e-mail service (Gmail), document management (Google Docs), file storage and sharing (Google Drive) and website development (Google Sites). Your start-up can take advantage of the entire suite for a minimal fee, killing several birds with one high-tech stone.
Pros: Low cost; Ease of use.
Cons: Requires Internet connectivity.
Cost: Flexible plan costs $5 (about ?800) per user account per month; Annual plan costs $55 (about ?9000) per user account per year.
So your start-up has a website now. Good for you! Next step: Setup a Google Analytics account to monitor and analyse web traffic comprehensively. This tool is as powerful as analytics tools come, trumping several paid alternatives and deployed by a number of the world’s most popular websites.Google Analytics is free for websites with up to 5 million page views per month (yes, that’s a lot) or unlimited page views if your website is connected to a Google AdWords account.
Pros: Free; Tracks multiple websites; Monitors social networking activity; Can track mobile phone users.
Cost: Free for sites with up to 5 million page views per month or unlimited page views if site is linked to an AdWords account.
[image via Flickr/webtreats]