New Canadian blogging hub could be boon for social net savvy businesses

A blogging hub originally designed for online authors by a Montreal-based Internet firm may serve as a vital tool for businesses seeking to access potential customers among the tens of thousands of social communities on the Net.

Praized Media yesterday launched the public beta of what it calls the first distributed online local search site for social media.

The company’s Web site provides bloggers and online communities with free tools that aggregate and structure the millions of conversations occurring on the Internet into “relevant recommendations” specific to their community.

The benefits to the social net crowd are more targeted responses to online searches, and access to feedback from more specific audience sets, as opposed to relatively scattered results from typical search engines, according to Harry Wakefield, CEO of Praized Media.

The Praized site ensures that each community delivers content or search results that are most relevant to the community’s members.

The system constantly scours the social sites for conversations and distributes them among appropriate communities.

For example, Wakefield said, someone seeking recommendations for a great restaurant would get very different advice if they posed the question in a meat-lover’s blog, as opposed to responses they would get in a vegan blog.

Praized Media currently has a contract with the Yellow Pages Group.
Relevant ads are embedded on each Praized Media community site pages.

When users click on these ads they are brought to the corresponding online Yellow Pages entry for the ad. While Praized Media tools and membership are free, each time a user clicks on an ad, the Montreal Internet firm gets paid by Yellow Pages.

Praized Media communities are also present in Facebook with the help of the Praize ‘n’ Raze, an application which allows Facebook users to create unique local search results that square in with the needs of their specific community.

Social media experts say businesses attuned to the swelling popularity of online grassroots marketing can also reap benefits from the tools offered by Praized Media.

Although it’s not entirely a new idea, Praized Media’s take on using social networks is…well praiseworthy, says Michael O’Connor Clarke, vice-president of Thornley Fallis Communications, a Toronto-based communications and public relations agency.

He said while other companies have tried to create specialized social communities that set them apart from well known networks such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, Praized Media chose to pursue to distributed approach.

“By tapping on the communities already inherent in established sites, the company is able to centralize, but at the same time reach out to more communities without rebuilding anything.”

“This site can be genuinely useful for businesses that know how to use social networking to boost their bottom line.”

Primarily, businesses should use Praized Media as a means to “catch the pulse” of potential customers. And the way to achieve this sort of “business intelligence” is by closely monitoring blogs that touch on the business’s industry, said Clarke.

“What is a blogger? Essentially he is a customer who has, because of the Internet, achieved a voice. Businesses should listen to that voice and others talking to it to get a sense of what they want.”

Many businesses that have not been quick to adapt to the new marketing model are now having difficulty in reaching out to and reacting to the new generation of consumers, according to Dominira Saul, usability specialist for the Ottawa branch of Macadamian Technologies Inc., a software development and usability research firm.

Traditionally, Saul said, sales were driven by marketing and advertising campaigns. “In today’s viral marketing environment, people create the buzz online and decide among them if the product is good enough for them.”

Apart from snatching snippets of business intelligence from blog entries relevant to their organization, Saul encourages companies to get involved in the conversation.

“Companies, especially SMBs, can use online communities as a platform to achieve some presence in the social networking space with minimum capital investment.”

Rather than spending time and money developing sites similar to Facebook for their company, SMBs can take advantage of Praized Media’s distributed approach to access an already aggregated audience, he said.

Some of the Praized Media features that businesses can use include:

User tagging – Bloggers and site editors embed snippets of merchant information to their post and news articles to drive traffic to their local section. The more a business gets tagged, bookmarked, shared and discussed in a positive manner, the higher that company’s online profile becomes.

Search engine optimization tools – The site employs SEO tools that help drive local traffic from search engines to community sites. Businesses that become part of a Praized Media community can use this traffic to raise awareness about their products and services.

Centralized Database– An aggregated view of local conversation from all Praized communities in compiled at www.praized.com. Businesses can use this to “separate the wheat from the chaff” and review only conversations relevant to their space to gain a better understanding of their market.

“Trust your tribes” is actually Praized Media’s motto.

“What would you rather believe: a marketing ad or the opinion of people who think like you?” asks Wakefield.

Businesses that try out Praized Media might do well to ask themselves the same question.

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