Small businesses and personal users are beginning to wake up to the power of social media. However, sometimes overlooked is the huge array of free or low cost web based services offering business applications that were previously only available on the desk top through paid licences. You can set up almost an entire small business suite from hosted services including email, company wiki, invoicing, blogs and even a simple website.
Having your own domain not only allows full control over your online identity, but also acts as an anchor for all your web based business applications. For example services such as Google Docs and Zoho offer a bunch of useful collaboration tools that can also be customised with your preferred domain name. Acquiring and properly managing a unique web address not only protects your intellectual property, but also facilitates content portability. Incidently, a domain customised service such as a public blog site gets much better rankings by search engines and the web address is shorter and more memorable for customers.
But domain ownership needs to be explicit. Recently I heard of a case where a couple set up an online business together selling clothing. Unfortunately the relationship broke down and one party took control of the web address, preventing the other party from trading. This was despite the fact that the business brand name was actually the same as the given name of the aggrieved party. Registering the trade mark and having the business own the domain would have provided clarity and prevented this situation.
A properly managed domain can reap rewards for its owner through better visibility on the social web, as well as acting as an anchor point for a range of services that improve small business productivity. Business owners should make use of the wide range of social media and online business tools that are now available and be aware that many of these are domain customisable.