As a progressive businessperson, you probably have heard the phrase “Web 2.0.” You can’t escape it. By now you’ve heard of and maybe used LinkedIn, a social networking site for businesspeople on which many promotional products professionals are connecting; Digg, where users can tag news stories and vote on them; and MySpace and Facebook, social networking sites originally used by teens and young adults but now popular with companies and adults.
You may be aware that Web 2.0 technologies exist—somewhere out there in cyberspace—but think they have nothing to do with you or your company. However, all signs indicate that Web 2.0 will have something to do with your future, and it is as inescapable as having a website is today.
Welcome to Web 2.0 where power lies in the hands of the people. This authority exists at the ground level, which is why the Web 2.0 movement is deemed “the groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, two Forrester Research analysts who wrote the popular book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Harvard Business Press, 2008).
The Way Of Web 2.0
What makes Web 2.0 so revolutionary?
“With Web 2.0, there is bilateral communication instead of unilateral communication,” says Mike Michalowicz, author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (HarperCo Books, 2008) and owner/CEO of Boonton, New Jersey-based entrepreneurial investment firm Obsidian Launch. “Web 1.0 was just speak, speak, speak. Web 2.0 is speak and listen, speak and listen, speak and listen.”
If you haven’t heard of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, you are probably snickering right now. I snickered, too—until I Googled the book’s name and received 22,000 hits. How did Michalowicz rise from obscurity to relative fame? Through Web 2.0, of course.
“We’ve leveraged the living crud out of social media,” Michalowicz says. “It’s been very successful for us.”
But creating such an internet presence has been a full-time effort—for Michalowicz and four of his co-workers. “We spent 10-hour days here at the office cranking the internet,” he says. “We’d start at 8 in the morning and we wouldn’t leave until 6 or 7 at night. It’s a full-time effort.”
There is something to be said for circumspection in the Web 2.0 era. In a column (“Social Misfits”) from the November 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine, Caroline Waxler writes about Starbucks’ and Wachovia’s attempts to use the micro-blogging site Twitter, on which users post messages of 140 characters or less in length.
“With each sexy bit of social media that catches fire with users, lame companies get to pretend they know how to connect with customers,” Waxler writes. “Just this morning the Wachovia Twitterer responded to the Starbucks Twitterer. Starbucks had said, ‘It’s possible to make a Vivanno with soy, but there is dairy in the whey base. Nutritional info is for standard drinks only.’ Get this. Wachovia replied, ‘On behalf of my fellow bankers, thanks for keeping us moving along!’ You had to be there: It was like having a seat at the Algonquin Round Table.”
Ouch. How can companies avoid this kind of response to their efforts to create a Web 2.0 presence?
“This is exactly the problem with the, ‘Hey, let’s get in and do this stuff,’ kind of attitude,” Bernoff says. “Sometimes people immediately think about the technology rather than their objectives for creating it. We recommend that companies first figure out what technologies your customers are using now.” Bernoff and Li use a social technographics profile to classify customers according to their involvement in the groundswell, placing them into one or more of six groups.
Sixty percent of Americans use social media, according to the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study conducted by the Boston, Massachusetts-based strategy and communications agency Cone, Inc. Of those, 59 percent interact with companies on social media websites. Additionally, 93 percent of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media.
Companies are utilizing user-contribution systems in a variety of ways, including social networks, forums, ratings and reviews, intranets and extranets. (An extranet is a part of a company’s intranet that is extended to users outside the company.)
According to the October 2008 Harvard Business Review article, “The Contribution Revolution,” Hyatt set up an online concierge service where users provide local travel tips, which are rated by others. Unilever created a user forum for moms to share experiences and share a sense of community. Best Buy boasts an employee-run (really) intranet. Honda established an automotive navigation and information system where customers provide traffic-related data. Threadless.com lets users vote on designs submitted by amateur designers and produces t-shirts based on the winners.
Another popular user generated-content site is YouTube, where users post videos they’ve created. Supplier firm Selco just posted its first video on YouTube. (The video targets promotional consultants and is ripe with industry jargon, thereby negating any suspicion that Selco is gunning for end users.)
The October 2008 issue of the Public Relations Society of America’s tabloid, Public Relations Tactics, features a “Spotlight on Web 2.0” section, which discusses user-generated content sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and others. In an article (“This Blog’s For You”) Erik Battenberg writes, “Blogs may have started as a channel for people to start conversations and build virtual communities, but more and more companies are using blogs as marketing tools.”
You may have already created your own blog, or know of someone who has. Bruce Felber, creative director/account executive for Twinsburg, Ohio-based distributor firm Felber & Felber Marketing (UPIC: felber), says his company has a blog, which was created in 2008. “I think it helps us out quite a bit,” Felber says.
Beckman writes articles every two weeks and posts them on his blog. He believes the time investment is worthwhile. “I have experienced quite a few sales from my blog site,” he says. “When I call on a prospect I haven’t talked to before, I send the link to them ahead of time. They will actually say, ‘Oh yes, I read your blog article, and I thought it was interesting.’ So I know they’re reading it.”
“Your customers need to find something useful on your blog every time they read it,” Bernoff advises. “Think about what your customers’ lives are like. If your buyers are marketing people, perhaps you could comment on activities happening in the marketing industry. Things like, ‘I went to a tradeshow and found this interesting’ or ‘Here’s a new research study that shows this succeeds.’”
Ratings And Reviews
You may be thinking that implementing ratings and reviews leaves your company open to negative input via its website. You’re right; most likely, that’s what would happen. But, according to Michalowicz, getting a negative review is good.
If you perform a search for “the toilet paper entrepreneur” on Amazon.com, you’ll see the book was reviewed by 32 people and received a five-star rating. You might assume this means all 32 users gave the book five stars, but that’s not the case—one reviewer gave the book one star.
“As hard as it was to swallow a one-star rating, the negative review elicited responses from other people,” Michalowicz explains. “A one-star rating may be the best marketing tool you have because it starts a dialogue. I think the most helpful review is the negative one.”
So, Now you must aware of changing face of media. So Move ahead with it to generate profit.