Joining the Bandwagon

Written by Martin J. Young, former correspondent of Asia Times

Question: Everybody seems to be starting online businesses. How can I compete with them all?

Answer: There are no reliable statistics on how many students have started their own websites, so there is no way of knowing what percentage of them have become successes. To beat the competition, you will need a large dose of creativity in addition to your technical skills. You need to engage users so they enjoy being on your website before they start to think about spending money.

Small creative changes can make a world of difference. The content must be dynamic and unique. With all of the dross floating around on social media these days, you will have to come up with something special to stand out. Most websites have blogs these days. Leading web design company chief executives have recommended letting users create the blog rather than your telling them about the product.

Review-based websites are all the rage now. Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and Amazon flourish thanks to the content people have put on the site themselves. The customers are writing reviews of the products and places, not about the owners of the business. If bloggers can see the feedback from their contributions, they are more likely to return to your site.

Another method of integrating with users is through surveys. They can be made for pretty much anything and ask questions about your products on numerous topics, such as “best gifts for college students.” Surveys allow feedback and will give you an idea about which products or articles are popular on your website. You can then focus more resources into marketing these.  Before a sale is made, you already have an idea which products will perform better, since the customers have already told you what they want.

You have access to a great number of resources at college, so make use of them for your fledgling online business. There are many reasons why college is a good time to do start something up. Speak to your fellow students and find out what kind of products and services they would be interested in. Do some brainstorming with close friends and maybe go into partnership with like-minded colleagues. Two minds are better than one when it comes to internet creativity. The student market is huge, and they’re all online, so look into ways that you can offer student services or products that will improve college life.

You may not even be selling a product, so think about other options for online businesses. Try to find a niche. Tutoring websites and blogs work very well, and maybe you could teach others something that you are passionate about. There are countless students running their own Youtube channels on their favorite things from fishing to gaming. You could integrate this into your own website and build a community of people who are into the same things.

You have plenty of options for online businesses; the only limit really is your own imagination.

No one disputes that online businesses offer much more variety than their analog counterparts. – Anita Elberse