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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

What is Web 2.0?

May 29th, 2008

Web 2.0 is a term that has proliferated rapidly over the last few years. The term has become so popular that it’s now being used by about anyone for about anything (Web 2.0 Easter greeting card anyone?). For most businesses, it’s not necessary to understand Web 2.0 in much technical detail. What is important to understand are the massive social and business environment changes that the Web 2.0 phenomena is driving.

Web 2.0—The widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication.

Web 2.0—The Basics

Web 2.0 is simply the widespread acceptance and use of technology that allows continually changing or active communication. As you may be aware, some of the most common Web 2.0 applications are blogs, podcasts, Content Management Systems (CMS), social networking sites and user forums. Each of these technologies can be defined within Web 2.0 depending upon how they’re utilized. Technology is a prerequisite for Web 2.0, but it’s the widespread acceptance and use part of the definition that really matters.

Let the Buyer Beware

The most important aspect to Web 2.0, from my perspective, is that it has sparked a grassroots revolution by consumers. The era of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) progressively grew through the 20th century until we languished under a never ending stream of unbelievable advertising. Regardless of consumer protection laws, the reality was that we were largely forced to rely on the naturally biased advertising and promotional information provided by businesses.

The losers in this environment were of course the consumers, but also those businesses who truly did offer unique value and could not afford to carpet-bomb our televisions, magazines and mailboxes. Nor could a business offering real value do much in their advertising to show they were different, since their competitors would make the same claims.

Consumers who wanted unbiased information about a seller relied on personal referrals—the most unbiased and believable feedback available. They were limited however by the finite capacity of their own personal networks.

Let the Seller Beware

Web 2.0 has ignited a new era of caveat venditor (let the seller beware). The rapid change in the marketing nvironment is not due to legislation or litigation, but rather the widespread practice of consumers sharing unbiased
information about a sellers product to other customers and prospects.

A simple example can be seen with books. Outside of our friends’ recommendations, we’ve had to rely on the
publisher’s information or from the questionably neutral editorial reviews. Now, thanks to Amazon and others, we have access to a large and active community of other consumers who provide us their unbiased feedback. Of course this is not a perfect system, those with ulterior motives can post reviews but we can use common sense to evaluate the reviews collectively and form a more reliable conclusion about a product.

For example, if I were to rely on attractive cover and glowing editorial review for Deck Planner: 120 Outstanding Decks You Can Build I might convinced to buy this book. But when I look at relatively low rating by consumers and their mixed reviews, I opt for a better choice.

The important point to understand about Web 2.0 from a business perspective is that our products and services will increasingly be promoted or demoted in the marketplace by consumers, and that advertising and PR will continue to lose effectiveness. Consumers now have better choices of where to get information before making a purchase decision.

The Web 2.0 revolution is only bad news for those sellers who have gotten away with neglecting their customers. In my next post, we’ll explore some of the unprecedented opportunities and strategies for businesses offering true value.

Digg and Del.icio.us

February 23rd, 2007

With the number of questions I’m getting from clients about why we included Digg and Del.icio.us tags on their site, I’m starting to realize that I’m not doing a very good job of explaining why upfront. So, in an attempt to reverse this trend, here’s a bit of an explanation.

Digg and deli.cio.us are two of the most popular services for social networking. As you may be aware, social networking is a huge phenomenon powered by the newest web technologies (aka Web 2.0). For more insight look up “Internet Social Networks” on Wikipedia, but the essence of social networking from a business perspective is that it provides an unique free opportunity for an organization to get their message heard and propagated.

Social networking is relatively new to mainstream but growing fast and many believe that it will play a key role in the future of the Web. In addition to providing a medium for referrals, it also provides a means by which your site can be more visible to the Internet as a whole through indexes and search engines. Sites with quality, well targeted and frequently updated content are good candidates for success using social networking. For example, Idaho Business Review recently deployed a Web 2.0 site on which they utilize social networking links prominently in each of their online articles (see
an example
). There are a lot of dynamics to be in place before a site is going to grow exponentially from its inclusion in social networks, but it comes down to a principle that an old sales veteran once told me, “If it can’t hurt, and might help, why not do it?” And of course, having Digg and Del.icio.us links make you look hip.



Corporate Blogging is Gaining Momentum

December 8th, 2006

Despite all the negative publicity from some pundits on the effectiveness of blogging, the current trend of corporate blogging is gaining momentum. For instance, there are twice as many Fortune 500 companies blogging today as there was a year ago, and I would estimate that number to grow substantially as the need for dynamic Web applications grows.

So why is it that corporations are starting to buy into the blogging trend? I would narrow it down to these basic factors:

– The necessity to edit and update information on the Web instantaneously

– The need to reach out to and engage customers rather than passively addressing them through advertising

– The reality that consumers are more savvy today than a few years ago; and they demand relevant and up-to-date content via the Web

As the blogging phenomenon continues to evolve and progress, the realization that a blog is far more than a rant platform or a personal Web page will bring more companies into the fold. A blog is not simply a tool in which to share personal opinions, but rather a communications device that allows businesses like to reach out to and communicate with targeted audiences.

Articles of Reference:

CEO’s Blogging

Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki

Blogging Myths

Why You Should Blog for Business

September 28th, 2006

Why would a business pass up a virtually free way to bring in new customers? Any business owner or executive should cringe at the thought of this, but research indicates that many are letting just such an opportunity pass by.

An interesting study was just published from a web hosting company in Britain. Even though the study is from Europe, the findings are very consistent with the experiences we’ve had here at RisingLine.  About half of the 2,300 small to medium businesses surveyed said they really liked the idea of using a blog on their site to increase traffic, but only about 3 percent actually plan on starting a blog in the near future.  This is odd behavior given the irrefutable evidence that consumers are increasingly flocking to consult blog sites before making purchase decisions. Blogs are no longer esoteric, they have grown to number 54 million (according to Technorati), with 75,000 new ones being created each day.

It really should be a no brainier. Blogs provide an easy method for businesses to develop rapport with their current clientele and create a like-minded online community that attracts prospects that are the most desirable clientele. Blogs allow non-technical business owners and executives to take control of their website without the assistance and delay of an IT professional, and to publish more authentic (and therefore believable) content for their site visitors.

Based on this study, it seems that a large percentage of business owners do realize the benefits…at least on some level, so the question is why is such a tiny percentage actually acting on the opportunity?  The survey showed exactly what we hear everyday…the business executive has no time to blog. Here are the three reasons why this exuse is not justifiable:

  1. It doesn’t take that much time. You don’t have to write a polished article…in fact it’s often better not to. Just provide concise and valuable insight, maybe a comment on a news item, for your target client. Here’s how: keep up to date on the most relevant topics using Google Alerts, write a few sentences in your own words of why a certain news item is important, and post it.
  2. You’ll Work smarter not harder. By spending 10 minutes each week to develop an online community of high value clients and prospects you’re ROTI (Return on Time Investment) can be exponentially higher than many other low-value activities you most likely engage in. You’re building a community of customer evangelists who will start driving highly qualified prospects to your business. Recycle 10 minutes of your time each week and blog! Set a reoccurring Outlook appointment to post to your blog the same time every week.
  3. You’ll gain a better strategic perspective for managing your business.
    By taking a few minutes each week to watch the trends in your industry, you’ll keep on the cutting edge of your market, mature into a trusted advisor, and gain more credibility with your clientele…not just on your blog but in all your interactions with them.
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