The availability of content management systems (CMS's) and thousands of free and cheap website templates has opened the door for nearly anyone to create a trustworthy looking business online.
So as an entrepreneur and business owner, how do you know whom to trust and do business with? Among the many options you have is to turn elsewhere on the web and tap into the social dialogue about the company or brand in question. And that's what leads me to this week's Wednesday Web Resource... Marginize Founded in early 2010 and based out of Cambridge, Mass., Marginize allows anyone to engage with or read others' comments on any website -- independently from the owner of the site -- by using a free browser add-on or bookmarklet. Once the add-on or bookmarklet is deployed, a new sidebar appears in the right margin of the web page, where anyone can read and interact via comments and check-ins (think of "check-ins" as Foursquare for websites). As a result, every website now has an ad-hoc message board, whether the site's owner wants it or not! (For an example of how this works for this particular page you're reading right now, click this link: http://mar.gy/tRv.)
Pre-populated with the most recent and archived user-generated content about the company or brand (primarily from Twitter, one cursory look is all it takes to form an opinion and learn more from what others have to say. Marginize's founder, Ziad Sultan, says that's exactly the point.
"Whether people are interested in buying the same product or are looking for reputable companies or services, Marginize enables the conversation to naturally take place between these parties, even though many websites would rather avoid this," says Sultan.
If you're the type who reads between the lines, you're probably starting to see that Marginize can be used for and against your business. As a result of anyone being able to participate, it's quite conceivable your competitors or detractors can be using Marginize to raise questions about your company or services -- which is exactly what's happening elsewhere on the web. This is why I strongly recommend that every entrepreneur with a website start using the free Marginize browser add-on or bookmarklet to see what's being said about their own business or brand online. Having access to this type of information enables you to address real-time issues and opportunities on your own terms, as opposed to remaining ignorant to the fact that both helpful and harmful dialogue is occurring.
While Marginize's current focus is on leveraging content from Twitter, I wouldn't be surprised if in the next few months we start seeing content from Yelp, StumbleUpon and other user-generated recommendation engines that freely share information for public consumption, make its way into Marginize's stream.
For more information, or to download the free Marginize browser add-on or bookmarklet, visit www.Marginize.com.