What NOT to do when moving to Web 2.0

by

iMedia Connection

By John O’Green

Even the most carefully crafted Web 2.0 program can fall flat if users don’t get what they have come to expect from the two-way internet. Here are some key pitfalls to avoid when planning your brand’s efforts.

Many marketers say they have a handle on Web 2.0. They’re LinkedIn, they update their status in Facebook and have followers on Twitter. But in reality, there’s a lot of talk about the social media space — and not necessarily a lot of actual work behind the words.

When creating new concepts for a company to incorporate Web 2.0 features, such as user-generated reviews, viral marketing tactics and spreading information via word of mouth, keep in mind that without allowing consumers to have input and control, a carefully crafted marketing or advertising program can end up with very few users, or can even be lambasted on the latest industry blog that lives to make fun of poorly conceived campaigns.

By knowing what not to do when launching into the two-way internet, where businesses and individuals interact and collaborate, smart companies can adopt new technologies that build brand awareness and attract loyal customers. Here are some guidelines for updating a company’s website and online plan.

The customer is king
Web 2.0 is not a programming language or a specific architecture. It’s a methodology that enables individuals to create and share content online. Where Web 1.0 was a one-way flow of information, from a company’s website to the customer reading the information, Web 2.0 is two-way — businesses and customers respond and create content together. Customers can use tags to categorize merchandise and offer reviews of products and services for others to see, essentially producing a more effective website for future customers. Customer-generated information is perceived as more authentic and carries increased credibility to spread word of mouth.

Marketing still has its place
When a company offers user-generated reviews, advergames or features such as custom tag creation, it should not be assumed that customers will find these options and automatically adopt them. Traditional online marketing tactics should still be employed to drive traffic and recognition to a company’s website. Search engine optimization, pay-per-click campaigns and even email newsletters to an existing customer base are all important drivers for site traffic.

Don’t build a walled garden
The proliferation of Web 2.0 was made possible through the integration of various programming languages, referred to as mashups, which often are created by users who have no association with either site used in the mashup. Sites such as Facebook and Google offer application programming interface (API) code that developers can use to create new applications based on the code of the original site. An open site with APIs allows for the creation of mashups and, in turn, further spreads the reach of the original sites.

While companies may consider opening the back-end of their sites through APIs, others are taking an additional step by offering Software as a Service (SaaS), which is software that lives online vs. downloads and applications that are housed on a user’s desktop. This decreases the need for downloads and space on a computer, as it instead lives within a user’s browser, making it accessible to the user from anywhere and from any computer.

Remember to share
Don’t forget to make it easy for customers, partners, media and other audiences to stay up-to-date on the company and its offerings. Another important step for any company is the need to offer Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. RSS is an easy way for anyone interested in a company’s website to stay up-to-date with the latest news, sales or new products. The information is packaged into aggregated content that is read through feed readers, such as My Yahoo, Bloglines or Google Reader. This allows companies to virtually keep in contact, with minimal effort and maximum returns.

Networking needed
Don’t play the wallflower. Explore social networking communities. User-generated content is being shared online through social networks such as MySpace, Facebook and numerous sites that are created for specific industries or interests. Marketing through social networks is still in its infancy.

However, many marketers are experimenting with custom Facebook applications that reflect the concept of advergames, where the user engages in some sort of activity with advertising as the byproduct. For example, Facebook users can add an application that display a user’s top songs, offered by a site that sells music.

Whatever avenue a company takes, keep in mind that any Web 2.0 initiatives should be well thought out, appropriate for the company’s audience and include features that allow customers to have a say and pass information to their circle of friends.

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