Web 2.0 Success Stories

How entrepreneurs used social media to earn thousands for their business dreams

For those of you still on the fence about the impact Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, videos, and social networking sites can have on “real” businesses, consider the stories of Alissa DeRouchie and Carmin David. These two women were among the five finalists of Intuit’s recent Just Start contest, which aimed to award one lucky entrepreneur $50,000 in cash, products, and services to turn their entrepreneurial dream into a real business.

On the contest Website, each finalist had a page with their essay discussing their entrepreneurial dream, a homemade video, a short radio interview with me, and a few other tidbits that helped members of Intuit’s JumpUp.com social networking site get to know them. This is important because the community decided who won the cash. And the community voted Alissa the winner of the top prize, with Carmin earning $5,000 for her second place finish. Here’s how they used social media to earn cash to put their dreams into play.

Blogging
One of the smartest things Alissa did on becoming a finalist was to create a Website specifically for the contest–www.VoteCafeAndPlay.com–which she used to blog about her contest experiences. It became the place people could go to learn more about her business idea of opening up a child-friendly restaurant. But she also used it to sign up people to receive a daily e-mail reminder to go vote for her. And she not only kept people up to speed with the contest, but she even entertained people with homemade videos.

Social Networking
Carmin found surprising support from About.com for her dream of starting a day care for special needs children. Upon hearing that one of their avid readers had become a finalist in the Intuit contest, the editors of About.com’s Home Business section wrote a special article promoting Carmin’s “candidacy” to the thousands of people visiting the site. Carmin also was very diligent in communicating with people via the comment section of the contest site, which allowed her to really connect with those voting on the contest.

An Assist from Intuit
Intuit wanted the JumpUp community to drive this whole process, so they created a contest site built for collaboration. Lively conversations sparked up all over through comments left on the individual finalist’s pages. Not only were people commenting, but they were stumping for their favorite “candidate” by enlisting their colleagues to vote. Intuit made it easy for people to add widget badges to blogs and Websites, inviting people to vote. So if you had a Blogger or TypePad account, you could help you’re candidate get votes with a couple of clicks. And if you have a big Facebook network, you could put it to work for your favorite with ease.

Although the contest allows one entrepreneur the ability to “just get started” with $50,000, the other finalists picked up a few thousand dollars as well. And they all gained so much exposure it can’t help but raise their profiles and possibly increase their chances to succeed. But this contest helps way more than the lucky few

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