Update 6/16/06: Great article just released on Small Business Trends: MySpace, Not Much Value to Most Small Businesses
I want to take a bit of time to explain social networking online. Being of the MySpace generation it's been obvious to me what these networks can ultimately become and hence the value I see for merchants using MerchantCircle. However, for business owners not of the generation, it leaves a bit to be explained on how a site much like MySpace aims to help grow their business and build their relationships. Granted today's plethora of social sites are centered on youth culture, but the tools and communication that is happening within these sites cannot be ignored for other markets (ie. MerchantCircle). I recently stumbled onto an interesting article on the growth of these communities online. Most interesting about this article is the fact that these tools are assimilating outside of youth culture and presenting themselves in other business markets.
So if you take a look at what the youth are doing on sites like MySpace and then implement it for say business purposes, you have the makings of a very valuable tool. For instance, the youth on MySpace are creating content. This content comes in the form of blogs - web journals focused on issues at hand and pictures - usually to enforce the narrative in their blogs and or to create identity for the user. Among this content and the most centric part of MySpace and related sites is their unique ability to build and expose relationships online. Now it's here that the value resides. Users of MySpace and the like are creating unique content to share with their friends, family, and acquaintances online.
Keeping this in mind, let's shift for a moment back to MerchantCircle. Much like MySpace we bring the same ideas but to local businesses. Each individual merchant can create unique content; blogs, pictures, newsletters, coupons, and advertisements for their relationships online. A merchants relationships can consist of it's customers but also of fellow business owners, whom they promote, send referrals too, and overall just support in the community. So much like the youth creating for friends and family, merchants are doing the same. It's this network, this referral mechanism that helps make MerchantCircle great. This aspect combined with additional tools and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) help merchants connect and grow online without the complexities of promoting and building their own website. It's all about using current tools to simplify the web.
Simplicity is always much better, especially when you have a business to run.
I hope this act's as a better explanation to merchants trying to understand social networking online. I'll be glad to expand further if you have any more questions. Just leave me a comment and I'll get back to you ASAP.