they say the best things in life are free. a smile from a loved one. an email from an old friend. the sunrise in the morning, sunset in the evening. a grand waterfall, and the simple sounds of a flowing creek. i’d venture to say that the best things in business are (sometimes) free as well.
i have a friend who is standing up a business in our old college town [ok, so it’s a bar â€” and i get to drink for free when i go back for football games]. he asked me about setting up a website for the place and about some of the things he wanted on the site for people to be able to follow; namely, he was looking for a place to keep pictures, and to post events and drink/food specials. his needs (and my limited web development skills) got me to thinking, “how can i accomplish that without messing it up!” and then it dawned on me… the features he was asking for, you can already get for free online.
the new web [are we still in 2.0? i personally like to think we’re now in web 3.0 RC1] has a bunch of tools that you can sign up for and use for free. for my friend’s site requirements, i could easily accomplish the task of keeping tabs on photos using
flickr. not only would he have the ability to post his own photos, but to also build a community of users â€” users that would probably frequent his bar. beyond having an account that resides on flickr servers, the service can also easily be tied into an existing website or blog with various widgets.
for the requirement of having a calendar for showing live music events and more, i instantly thought of creating a google calendar. almost everyone uses google for at least their email, so almost everyone would have access to a shared google calendar of events. by using this service, my friend’s bar could push updates to anyone who had included his shared calendar into their google life. the calendar would be more of a passive means of communication. that’s why i’ve been pushing him hard â€” since before he was officially the owner of the bar â€” to create a twitter account for his place as well.
used in conjunction with the calendar, they could use twitter to push out the information that he felt would be important right then. for instance, around noon-time. everyone’s classes end at 11:45 â€” how about a tweet at 11:40 telling about the lunch special for that day. or a tweet around 8pm listing the drink specials on tap for that evening to help students plan out their wednesday night. [yeah, i said wednesday. weekends start early at the greatest university in the world.]
so do you have things you’d like your clients or customers to know? are you looking for ways to enhance your brand and demonstrate your capabilities to the market? do you manage a large project team across geographic locations and need to communicate with everyone in an effective, time sensitive fashion? before you go asking your company’s IT procurement group to drop thousands of dollars on productivity software, or spend large quantities of money on professional advertising campaigns â€” think about the web first! there are tons of free options out there for you to try before making that expensive jump.
and if you’re ever in state college, pennsylvania â€” go to the g-man onhiesterstreet and ask for pat. tell him houdini sent you.