Big business and Web 2.0


Ah yes, Web 2.0 or as the uninitiated call it at times… Web two dot oh.

The answer to the question "What is it?" will be vastly different depending from what segment of the business world the respondent comes.  According to Wikipedia, web 2.0 is defined the following way:

The phrase Web 2.0 is a trend in web design, development and can refer to a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis, and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users.

In short it is the next step in the evolution of the Internet. 

Web 2.0 websites allow users to do more than just retrieve information. They can build on the interactive facilities of "Web 1.0" to provide "Network as platform" computing, allowing users to run software-applications entirely through a browser.  Users can own the data on a Web 2.0 site and exercise control over that data.

Web 2.0 web sites tend to have an "Architecture of participation" encouraging users to add value to the application as they use it.  These newer web sites also very often include  social-networking aspects which facilitate further growth as conversations arise between users.

This stands in contrast to older, more traditional websites which limit visitors to viewing and whose content only the site’s owner could modify.

No one would deny that social media and the interactivity with new websites is BIG and will only get bigger.

The next question that most businesses are asking is how can I incorporate and leverage social media and web 2.0.

These days I find myself in a unique position as I’ve spent the last 5 years now operating in that wonderfully incestuous and competitive world know as Internet Marketing.  One of the most exciting aspects of that community is the fact that it keeps itself, and all of us in it, on the forefront of new technology and ideas.  As soon as a new concept comes out there is a great clambering as people dash to figure out how they can take advantage of it for financial gain.

I have also now spent the last 7½ months working as the Director (the actual title is "Commander") of Analytics and Internet Strategy for a marketing firm called The Republik

(Stick with me because this is where it gets interesting.)

What I am getting to do is apply all of the wonderful Internet Marketing tactics and technology to relatively traditional companies Internet Properties and strategies.  In many cases, these companies have a web site because they know they should have one and that is it.  The problem is they most likely paid a lot more than they should have to get what is more often than not, an attractive site but nothing more.  It is rare that almost any proper Internet Marketing elements have been incorporated.  In situations like this, even small changes can often amount to big improvements which works great for me.

There are also difficulties that come with a situation like this.

These are companies for whom  Web 2.0 seems a strange and mysterious world, played in by the younger generation. 

Their marketing directors are used to using very traditional push marketing channels.  Often times, large sums of money are spent to put a message out in front of an audience, but not necessarily the right audience. 

Most of them are aware of blogs, what they are and at least the fact that they have become main stream enough to be able to influence the goings on of the political arena.  Unfortunately, very often their knowledge and exposure stops right there.

It can be difficult to convince a CMO that they should switch their budget away from print advertising and instead focus their energies on viral video.

They would often rather pay hundreds of dollars a month to build and maintain what becomes an severely underutilized email list than pay just under $20 per month for an Aweber account.  This makes sense though when you consider that the only effort they put into building that list is a "Subscribe" link.

The issue is usually that even if I can point to successes by a handful of other companies who do get Web 2.0 and how to work with it, they just can’t see how it would work for them.

Well, I’ll give you the solution to this which also happens to be one of the more exciting aspects of playing in the social Internet arena.

Properly incorporating Web 2.0 technologies and techniques to marketing creates the all but perfect "Pull Marketing" environment.

This is a term that any Marketing Director should understand.

Rather than shoving your product or service into a prospect’s face (push marketing) you create a situation where the prospect feels they made their own informed choice to go visit your site and buy your product.

When incorporating social media and interactivity into marketing you empower a large pool of prospects to have a conversation about you. This is one reason Amazon has consumer submitted reviews on all products.  Rather than ask a consumer to believe what you say about your own product or service, let other  impartial people tell them.

If you want to sell women’s shoes, create a blog (sponsored by your shoe brand) where you ask women to tell you what they feel are the best shoes in the world.  Better yet, ask them to tell you which shoes and why.  Let the conversation start and before you know it you can have your very own community of people all of whom you now know care a lot about women’s shoes. There is wonderful potential for some very rapid, viral growth in a situation like this.

As that blog develops, the sponsoring shoe brand gets borrowed credibility from other brands and begins to be perceived as holding an important position is the world of women’s shoes.  As this happens, more and more women will take it upon themselves to go check out and then buy your brand. 

The next step is to work the PR world around your special shoe blog that so many women are visiting and you find you get even broader coverage and resulting traffic.

All we started with was a blog.

I am sitting down with a pair of local entrepreneurs to discuss a new social platform they have created that pulls in all of the best elements from the many other Web 2.0 concepts.  These guys spoke with a broad range of agencies prior to approaching us and in every situation before they met me, they ran into very traditional marketers who (despite what all of their trade magazines say about social marketing) just can’t see how Web 2.0 and the social marketing within it could work for them.

All I can say is "Amazing" but somehow also not very surprising.

This is the sort of marriage that can put our agency at the true forefront of marketing within the Web 2.0 environment.

Now, I can’t release the name yet as they are not yet ready for a big rush of business.  What I will do though is report back on it and keep you posted as to how we are using it for our company and for our clients.  I will also make sure to give you access the moment they say they are ready.

I know that may have been a bit rambling but… such are the thoughts of a very busy marketing executive.

Onward and Upward with "Web two dot oh"

Smile and have a Great day!

Sam Knoll

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