October 22, 2014

Business.gov Has Snazzy New Features

If any of you well-behaved small business owners visited the federal government’s Business.gov when it first launched back in 2004, you may remember it as a dull and dreary little web site that was not much more than a collection of links.

The web site was re-launched in February 2009 with a new look, new and snazzier programming, and a new venture into social networking (which I’ll get to in a minute) but, in the end, it remains essentially a collection of links. And, truth to tell, that is because that is what Business.gov was always intended to be.

Register a business

Business.gov is a web portal operated jointly by 22 different federal agencies, believe it or not, as an online resource portal for small businesses. It has links to federal programs, compliance assistance links for various sorts of rules, regulations and laws, state-specific and industry-specific links, and more.

Some of the information is provided there on the web site but, for the most part, the links provided send the inquisitive small business owner to other web sites to explore further. If a newbie wanted to find out about writing business plans, for example, he or she would find that most of the links on the relevant page lead to the main SBA web site, Small Business Development Center web sites, and other credible resources.

There are a lot of good things to be said about the new-and-improved Business.gov web site. Certainly it would not be possible to link to all the good information for small business owners to be found online and it is very helpful for somebody to limit the number of resources to something manageable.

The information and links provided are much easier to navigate in this version of the web site, too, thanks to that aforementioned snazzy programming. Web site visitors will not spend any time at all scratching their heads wondering why that resources was listed under that heading and, plenty of cross-referencing means that they’re likely to find what they are looking for regardless of how their minds work.

State and local business resources

That said, this site is in the unfortunate position of trying to be all things to all small business owners and probably is just not possible. There is quite a lot of information available for startups, including an encouraging amount of content targeted specifically at single-person businesses, microbusinesses and home-based businesses.

There is also a lot of information here for larger small businesses and those that are not so young and vulnerable, although I question how many of those firms will need to visit Business.gov in search of those resources. My hunch is that the more experienced business owners who are used to being online will already know where to find this information and will have little use for the portal.

Which brings us back to the social networking I mentioned earlier. In addition to the easier-to- use redesign, Business.gov now boasts a small business community where users can discuss whatever is on their minds.

Topic categories include financing, taxes, business law, and government contracting and here, too, is a separate board for the self-employed and home-based businesses. According to the “About Us” section of the web site, this is actually the very first online community sponsored by a federal agency.

You can even follow them on TwitterFacebook or MySpace. How very Web 2.0 of them!

Business.gov Community

If you decide to join the 1,000-plus members of the community, be prepared to dig your way through the self-serving not-quite-spammers in order to get to the golden nuggets of information posted by the more community minded members.

Even among the more genuinely helpful posts, you’ll find a distressing amount of self-serving drek. Dispensing the fruits of your experience in an online community like this is such a generally accepted online marketing ploy that you’d have thought people would be less heavy-handed and crass about it but that’s not the case.

As this community grows, it has the potential to become a wonderful source for networking and developing relationships, provided the community also grows a strong set of leaders and develops a culture that deals openly and mercilessly with trolls, spammers and self-serving twerps. That will take time, of course.

Meanwhile, I would suggest that Business.gov is well worth a visit and even a bookmark. The site will continue to grow as more tools, resources, and small business expert content are added. Besides, tone is everything in an online community like this; it may be worth your while to establish yourself as an early leader to help set that tone.

* * * * *

About the Author: Dawn Rivers Baker, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the Publisher of the MicroEnterprise Journal, where the nation’s business meets microbusiness. She also publishes the Journal Blog.

12 Comments ▼

Dawn R. Rivers


Dawn R. Rivers Dawn R. Rivers, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the publisher of the MicroEnterprise Journal. She also publishes research at the Microbusiness Research Institute and she blogs at The MicroEnterprise Journal Blog.

12 Reactions

  1. Well that’s good, a lot has changed in 5 years. I’m glad to see that they realize the importance of staying up to date and even included social networking. With so many resources out there, they obviously see that they need to stay competitive.

  2. It is nice that they’ve updated and made the site a bit more enticing and useful, however, it is disappointing to hear that there is still a fair amount of almost-spam type of stuff being thrown in your face. It takes away from the site.

    Regardless, they’re making steps in the right direction though and the social media aspect is a big plus in reaching out to assist others. It’s also nice to hear that navigating it is much easier now, too.

  3. Hi Dawn, thanks for your review. Thought it was very helpful. Are you participating over at the Business.gov community site?

    — Anita

  4. @Anita

    Hi there. I’ve spent some time on the message boards, although not as much as I might like since I don’t have this cloning thing down yet. I expect to be contributing more content in the near future, though, and am much looking forward to the feedback I expect I’ll get. :)

  5. Hi Dawn, WHAAAAT???? You are not working 20 hours a day? :)

    I must say I was impressed when @BusinessDotGov joined Twitter, but I’m even more impressed with setting up a community site on a .gov website.

    Thanks again for the review.

    Anita

  6. Thank you for the great review. Very well written, I will visit the new and improved site again.

  7. Hi Dawn
    They should pay you to moderate and keep it moving in the right direction. I’m glad to hear they’ve updated the site and are participating, even if there’s some spammer types. Hopefully, they’ll watch that activity and figure out how to moderate it.
    -TJ

  8. Every the other day– from small,medium, large business– I noticed everyone is making an initiative to create small business communities in their sites. I’m glad about this that more and more businesses realized the importance of a community. It does really help a lot when you’re involved in a community. Thanks Dawn for this news! ;)

  9. You summed up Business.gov in a nutshell. Also, there’s a limitation on their social network – they don’t allow you to post links (I guess because people abused it). That makes it a little hard to share valuable resources with the community.

  10. Yes Shauna, allowing us to post some links will surely help reference a very helpful article. I think they just need somebody to monitor of the links posted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>



Compare your business to the industry - Try our new tool