Driving customer traffic by any means necessary
Online forums are nothing new. Social networking sites are nothing new.
And Web sites that combine both purposes are nothing new.
There are locally-focused online gathering places, such as hawaiithreads.com and food and restaurant-focused blogs such as onokinegrindz.com, tastyisland.wordpress.com and the Hawaii Restaurant Association-connected myalohavibe.com.
Many popular Web sites get that way because links get e-mailed around by one person to one or more friends, but very few of those sites -- if any -- get the back up of promotion through a television partnership.
The exception in Hawaii is womf.com, which stands for Word of Mouth Forums, for which KGMB-TV has been running commercials.
WOMF has sites focused on Australia, Namibia, New Zealand and South Africa and now, Hawaii, at hawaii.womf.com.
Station ads appear on the Hawaii WOMF pages, as a sign of the alignment.
"We're going to bring it to this country -- we're the beta site for the U.S. rollout," said Rick Blangiardi, KGMB president and general manager.
The station is "doing this for free," because the site "is designed to be a really great stimulus for local small businesses."
WOMF founders are "smart guys that are off to a really good start with this," Blangiardi said.
Just as the word party has become a verb as well as a noun, and as Google is both the name of a search engine and a near-universal verb for the act of searching for someone or something online, WOMF organizers are encouraging the use of womf as a new root word.
On the site, it is used for the act of posting a recommendation or observation, as in "womfing," as well as for the post itself, called a "womf."
"I'm not exactly Mr. Cyberspace," Blangiardi said, but added, "it is unique in that this thing writes back to you to say, '25 people checked my WOMF,'" not under his own name, but a username, as is the norm for online forums.
The site requires free registration and there are more than 20 categories of products, services and other topics to weigh in about.
It discourages shameless self-promotion by businesses, but encourages users to post "recommendations about the best businesses and services in your area," as WOMF seeks to become, "the ultimate local guide for all of Hawaii," the site says.
"All of us are in a hunker-down mode, you've got to keep trying to improve," despite the difficult times, Blangiardi said. He sees WOMF as a great instrument for small businesses to use to help each other "preserve the core, the business core, and stimulate progress."
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com