Toward an Online Community Model for Local Businesses
This study explores the community context of small businesses through the examination of a local chamber of commerce Web site. The interest is in how traditional small business networking organizations utilize the Internet. The face-to-face networking environment facilitated by the chamber of commerce provides a unique setting for information exchange and business promotion. The Internet has been embraced by many commercial enterprises as an e-commerce and marketing tool to generate sales and establish a new form of company and brand presence. Several research questions are explored that examine how traditional small business networking organizations utilize the Internet. This research examined how a Queens, New York Chamber of Commerce utilizes the Internet and the opportunities that are available to enhance information dissemination and discussion venues. This was an exploratory study in which the concepts of physical communities and online communities were also explored. For businesses seeking to sell their products and services over the Internet, the e-commerce model serves as a framework for Web site design, decision making, and Web site evaluation. However, when an organization is seeking to enhance communication, relationships, and information sharing, activities that do not directly apply to an economic model, a different framework may be needed to guide the process.
Keywords: Web Site, Small Business, Communication, Community, Networking
Dr. Wendy G. Ford
Faculty, Business Department, City University of New York