The popularity of social networking sites including MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and Xanga is phenomenal. Social networking sites make it easy for people to create a profile about themselves and use it to create a virtual network of their offline friends and to make new friends online.
Another social networking site called Squidoo is based not on personal profiles of individuals but on people's expertise in a niche subject. Squidoo is another way for marketers to build an online presence easily and for free. Squidoo, headed up by "original squid" Seth Godin—the founder of Yoyodyne (which he sold to Yahoo! in 1998), creator of "Permission Marketing," and best-selling business author of Purple Cow and Small is the New Big—is built around online lenses, which are a way to filter a person’s expertise on a subject onto a single page.
With Squidoo, interested people check out a lens on a topic and quickly get pointed to useful Web sites. A person who makes a lens is a lensmaster, and he or she uses a lens to provide context. "Everyone is an expert," the Squidoo site says, and Squidoo helps everyone share that expertise with the world.
A lens is not a destination, but rather like a guide that sends visitors to other places. The Squidoo FAQ says, "It's a place to start, not finish." Lenses provide detail on a topic and point to other content such as blogs, favorite links, RSS feeds, Flickr photos, Google maps, or Amazon books. I've created (at this writing) five lenses and for a lensmaster like me, the effort is minimal (each lens, such as the one I created on Web Content only took an hour or two to create), yet my lenses are consistently one of the top ten referring sites to my blog and Web site—only the search engines such as Google and the magazine and marketing sites I write for generate more traffic for me.
Auto Repair on Squidoo
Vince Ciulla, a professional automotive technician with over 30 years' experience, has created a popular Squidoo lens called Auto Repair – Trouble Shooting that points to content on his main site. A part of the All Info About network, this main site offers over 20,000 pages of auto repair content, including some 9,000 questions and answers. "A lot of people want to do their own repairs, and finding information about specific vehicles on the Web is difficult," Ciulla says. "Fixing your car is easy, the hard part is figuring out what's wrong. My Web site and links from my Squidoo lens is how people can get the information they need for free, such as how to replace a brake master cylinder. I also explain things like how the cruise control works."
Most of the traffic to Ciulla's site comes through search engines, but visitors also come from Squidoo. "The last time I checked, there were 210,000 search terms pointing to my pages," he says. Ciulla makes money from advertising on his site and also from telephone consultations with people who want to discuss specific auto repair issues with him. He's conducted some 2,500 paid telephone consultations as a result of people finding him online and wanting to tap his expertise. "To get more exposure for my content, I do a regular guest appearance on America's Car Show syndicated radio show and I have the Squidoo lens, which I use to funnel people to my All Info About site. There's not much maintenance required in Squidoo, and it drives traffic, so it is worth doing. I also started a Squidoo group with other people who have auto repair lenses, and we’ve got some people who provide information on hybrid cars."
Squidoo is not just for companies and independent consultants. Consider Global Action Foundation (GAF), a nonprofit organization started by a group of young professionals who work to eradicate extreme poverty. The GAF promotes their efforts (such as a project the group has begun in Sierra Leone to support amputees and their families) via the organization’s Squidoo lens. The GAF lens includes photos depicting the extreme poverty conditions that GAF helps to eradicate, links to the blog written by young American medical student John Daniel Kelly (who is a driving force behind GAF), and links for making online donations. This lens successfully portrays GAF work via the comprehensive content, and it encourages people to contribute.