Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Web 2.0 Proves Handy for Integrating Brand and Direct Marketing

May 30, 2008

Marketing VOX

Web 2.0 paves the way for integrating direct and brand marketing, enabling real-time dialog with customers and the joint creation of content that improves brand awareness and perception.

More importantly, all that work can generate sales and leads, according to a new report, MarketingCharts writes.

“New Media Emergence in DM & Brand,” a report from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), approaches “Web 2.0” — blogs, virtual words, social networks, user-generated content, RSS feeds, and wikis — as the seat converging all marketing.

Eugenia Steingold, Ph.D., DMA’s senior research manager, authored the report, which examines how new media is used for brand building and direct marketing. She also investigates possibilities for integrating DM and brand.

Elements most used by Web 2.0 direct marketers are (in order) blogs, online video, user-generated content and social networks:


dma-web20-use-for-dm.jpgOther key findings from the study of B2B and B2C DM marketers who use Web 2.0:

  • Despite being relatively new, Web 2.0 is apparently recognized as a brand-building channel:
    • 84 percent of respondents use it to raise brand awareness.
    • 82 percent use Web 2.0 tools to increase brand preference.
  • New media is used for direct marketing as much as it is for brand building:
    • 83 percent use Web 2.0 to generate sales.
    • 80 percent use it to generate leads.
  • Most marketers realize the opportunities that new media create for integrating DM and brand:
    • 85 percent of respondents use Web 2.0 to engage their customers and rate it as a highly effective mechanism for customer engagement (average rating is 5.3)
    • 84 percent of our respondents use Web 2.0 to create a community of loyal customers, and they find it very effective for doing so (the average rating is 5.0).

    Other findings:

    • 82 percent of respondents allocated a quarter or less of their marketing budget toward Web 2.0.
    • 70 percent of those who report that they are experts in interactive marketing also allocate about a quarter of their budget to Web 2.0.

    As a complement to the report, DMA is hosting a virtual seminar, “Using New Media – The Link Between DM & Brand,” on Wednesday, May 7.

    About the study: in January 2008, DMA deployed an online survey to it target audience, including B2B and B2C direct marketers who use Web 2.0 as part of their marketing strategies, and specifically strive to integrate DM and Brand. The survey was closed for tabulation in late February 2008 and obtained data from 160 respondents who completed the survey.


Retailers Consider Alternative Online Tactics to Supplement Email Marketing, Paid Search

May 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

Online retailers are increasingly open to placing ads on social media platforms, reports Advertising Age.

This conclusion was drawn from a report from Forrester Research, which shows that while e-mail marketing and paid search continue to be the primary platforms for online retailer advertising, alternative ones are likely to dominate in the near future.

According to Forrester, 65 percent of retailers will look into placing ads on social networks in 2008. That comes despite a general lack of hard evidence that social network advertising can actually convert users into buyers.

Another medium generating interest from retailers is online video, 67 percent saying they’ll be making that a priority this year. Flickr just launched its online :90 video service, which may prove helpful to creative retail mavens.

Widgets, RSS and other social technologies have generated notice as well, though the number of retail marketers prioritizing those platforms is lower.

Retailers also demonstrated a desire to move away from free shipping, an incentive used to bait users, in favor of a loyalty program. (Even Starbucks has launched one.) But Forrester cautions marketers that this economic climate may not be the best for abandoning proven strategies in favor of newfangled volatile ones.

Your guide to working with widgets

May 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

What the heck is a widget?

Over the past couple of years, yet another new term has entered the marketer’s vocabulary; that term of course is “widget.” And while many people are already talking about widgets 2.0, many others are just starting to pay attention. Whether you think widgets are the most annoying fad ever or the most innovative trend in interactive, there is no denying they are part of our industry dialogue. These days, I can’t have a conversation with a publisher, salesman or colleague, read an article or attend a conference where the word and topic is not being debated. Often the debate centers on the mere definition of a widget — not how or when they should be used, or who is leading the way.

Beyond the definition of a widget, what qualifies as a widget is being debated in marketing conference rooms around the world. Depending on the size and focus of your company, and your role within it, you may have debated whether this new “thing” should be called a widget, a gadget, a desktop application, a downloadable application, or some cool new name native to your company.

With that said, let’s take a deeper look at the what, why, when, who and how of widgets. Beyond the definitions I’ve heard, I thought I would first see what had to say. As I expected, the results were as varied as the debate:

1. Widget [wij-it] — noun — a small mechanical device, as a knob or switch, esp. one whose name is not known or cannot be recalled; gadget: a row of widgets on the instrument panel. 2. In graphical user interfaces, a combination of a graphic symbol and some program code to perform a specific function (e.g. a scroll-bar or button). 3. A device or control that is very useful for a particular job usually provides widget libraries containing commonly used widgets drawn in a certain style and with consistent behavior.

Or what about this simple and more industry-specific definition found at — “Widgets are small content features that help make your site personal and unique.”

Some of these definitions are relevant to our everyday businesses, some are not. For the purposes of moving forward, let’s assume that widgets in this article’s context mean everything from Facebook widgets to unique on-site widgets that brands develop to drive engagement, sales and/or ad revenue to more complex downloadable widgets/desktop apps that have multiple functions. In the end, the common thread across all of these widgets is that they all aim to drive some type of customer action (purchase/revenue, brand awareness/engagement, pass-along, etc.).

Why and when should I care about widgets?

Many brands have harnessed the power of widgets over the years. As the use and marketing of these tools become more commonplace, it’s only natural that more marketers are asking if widgets are right for them. Whether you are a publisher looking to gain traction and loyalty on the crowded web, a retailer attempting to make it easier for customers to interact with you while building your brand, or an aspiring developer anxious to create the next great widget, there are many reasons why more people are listening when it comes to widgets. But should you care? And if so, why?

The industry is still working to develop standards when it comes to measuring the success of a widget (beyond how many people “grabbed” your widget) and the growth forecast for the industry. Part of the challenge may be that there are many different types of widgets with many different types of goals. Some aim to simply build brands while others are part of a sophisticated content distribution strategy. Others are viral tools to support a new product, service, movie, etc. And then, of course, you can sponsor or serve a banner ad in someone else’s widget, or you can build your own. However, if we were to just use anecdotal stories as a way to determine why one should care about widgets, there would most likely be enough to convince most marketers that there is a sea of opportunity. At the same time, there are as many failed ventures to scare off those still new to the world of widgets before they even get started.

Despite all of the buzz and headlines that a few of the big breakthroughs have garnered, widget success is not guaranteed. With that said, companies should consider the following points before embarking on the journey of creating their own widget:

1. Creating the widget is not enough. Before you even go down the path of building your own widget, do your homework and decide if a widget is right for you. Understand what your customers want from your site/brand and how your widget will make it easier, more fun, more memorable or worth talking about. If you feel you have a homerun on your hands and widgets are indeed right for you based on your priorities and customer needs, it’s time to decide how you will market your widget to break through the clutter and be sustainable.

2. Does my widget idea already exist? In today’s competitive environment many ideas may already exist. This doesn’t mean you can’t improve on an existing concept, just that you should be aware of it and determine how you can best improve on it to get people to interact with your widget.

3. Define your goals and set clear success metrics. Although industry standards are still being developed, most companies know what is important to them. Whether you are a publisher fighting for eyeballs to monetize, a branded site looking to get customers to download your app, or you have distribution partners use and market your widget/sales engine to their audiences, you can’t achieve success if you haven’t defined it. This process should also help you decide who you should partner with and how much you can spend on your venture.

When should I develop a widget?
Whenever I am asked this question by colleagues, my boss or friends in the industry, I revert back to my previous points about first understanding if you should even be talking about widgets. It really does depend on your goals, your budget and your customer base. Do your customers care about widgets, does this help support your higher level goals as a brand/company, and do you have the budget to take a swing and a miss?

Before you decide if the time is right for your team to develop the next great widget, you might want to consider following the advice of a fellow writer, Evan Gerber, whose thoughtful article “Avoid these Facebook faux pas” offered these words of wisdom. “Do some serious soul searching. Are you embarking on a social networking (widget initiative in this case) campaign because someone thinks it’s cool, or because it fits in with a larger approach? Think of it like any other marketing channel — if it’s not part of a larger holistic strategy, it’s likely to fail.”

Although his comments were specific to a social media campaign, they are relevant to the widget decision as well. I couldn’t think of a better way to put it, so thanks for the words here, Evan!

Who is using widgets?

Although there are new widgets popping up every day, there are some clear leaders who are setting the bar in terms of development, innovation and success. Here are a few from the many that I think are doing it well.

When you go to the tripadvisor site, the directions and value proposition to downloading its “cities I’ve visited” widget are simple, but the functionality and buzz factor of this widget is off the charts. “Where have YOU traveled?” asks the widget. Create an interactive travel map to share with your friends and help them plan their trips. Nearly everyone I know is using this widget — from my teenage cousin to my 60-year-old father-in-law. I can’t wait to plan my next trip… nice job!

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve heard probably heard of iLike. In its words, “iLike lets you add music and videos to your profile, dedicate songs to your friends, and see who’s going to what concerts. Bonus: get free MP3s matching your tastes, and beat your friends at the Music Challenge.”

The bottom line is that this popular widget makes it even easier for people to do what they already like to do anyway — talk about what music and videos they like most, learn what favorites they share with their friends, test their music knowledge, and, of course, share content and dedicate songs. It’s easy to get started, the value is clear, and it’s completely relevant to the target audience. No wonder it’s been a huge success.

More great examples

This last one might only be for weather nerds like me, but I’m guessing not. continues to add new features to this tool every month/quarter, which tells me they either like to waste money or people are downloading the app and staying engaged. Gauging by the advertisers you see within it and the constant innovation, I’m going with the latter scenario.

Again, here we have a simple tool, which by its very nature will be filled with fresh content. People like to know what the weather is going to be like for their morning commute, their weekend picnic, or their upcoming vacation to Spain. Or sometimes, especially in the middle of a cold Chicago winter, it’s just fun to check the weather of all the hot spots around the world wishing you were there. I would be hooked just by that, but the fact is that the tool also serves up real-time weather alerts, local traffic reports, and allows you to customize your view to make staying in the weather loop even easier. The forecast for this widget is continued success.

SnowMate Desktop Application for your PC (v5)
Download here.

Check out the latest snow alert technology from Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly featuring the following:

  • Daily snow — reports sent straight to your desktop
  • Snow alert — snow on your screen = new snow at our resorts.
  • Trevvor (at top right) — he’ll be your animated snow guide who will ski or snowboard around your desktop and do cool tricks.
  • Video and photo gallery — featuring daily snap shots from the slopes.
  • Micro bar mode — reduce the SnowMate desktop application to a small dockable mode that displays current snow conditions.
  • Live mountain cameras
  • Screensaver, wallpaper and e-cards

As York Baur, EVP of business development for Zango, recently wrote, “Widgets are unquestionably unique and afford exiting new opportunities for advertisers. But no macro-event in business is unprecedented, and widget marketing is uncommonly similar to other marketing applications that have come before. Avoiding near-future missteps by studying the recent past is widget marketing’s greatest opportunity for smooth and steady growth.”

The barriers to entry in the world of widgets are going down, and while that is exciting, it’s also dangerous. Email continues to get easier, but just because you can email customers everyday doesn’t mean you should. Just because widgets are now easier to develop, distribute and market, it doesn’t mean you should do that either.

Do your homework, research the market, and don’t rush to be the next widget wizard just to say you have one. As I end, I must tell you that I’m currently going through the widget analysis process myself. Through my own research, it’s become clear that there is a lot of potential gain with widgets, but as with most business decisions, there is also much to lose. Regardless of the approach you end up taking, consider this: “Courage is the discovery that you may not win and trying when you know you can lose.” Good luck!

Studios’ viral marketing campaigns are vexing

May 2, 2008


By Andrew Wallenstein

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Viral marketing has gone positively bubonic. While this unconventional approach to building buzz online is nothing new, it has achieved full-blown plague status in the walk-up to the summer movie season.

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Hancock” are just some of the movies employing viral marketing — and the sheer volume is only part of why this strategy has becoming problematic.

For the uninitiated, viral marketing involves hatching multiple interconnected Web sites that plug a movie by extending its story lines online. That in turn gets blogs and social networks linking in — hence its viral nature.

Gone are the days when marketing a movie online involved simply buying a URL like and uploading a trailer. Warner Bros. has launched more than 30 Web sites during the past year in support of the latest in the “Batman” franchise, a trail of virtual bread crumbs intended to sate fans until the July 18 release.

Although the bulk of these campaigns play out on the Internet, they also frequently move offline, often in the form of wacky public events intended to amass die-hard enthusiasts. One “Knight” site provides clues pointing to screenings that were scheduled for Monday in 12 different cities.

But fans expecting a handy online guide that lists dates and locations for the screening will be disappointed. Instead, you’ll arrive at a spooky Web site featuring portraits of presidents whose images had been defaced by the telltale makeup of the Joker. Clicking on each portrait links to a set of coordinates that require accessing Google Maps to decipher.

Nothing is ever simple in viral marketing. Take the sheer depth of the “Knight” campaign, in which dozens of seemingly marginal elements of the film have Web sites of their own, including a fictional bank, a travel agency — even a deli, for crying out loud. Some are simple, single-page trifles, while others lead into games that would require wartime code-breaking skills to manoeuvre.

That’s viral marketing for you — compelling, creative and intricate but above all just plain exhausting. Since when should marketing feel like doing homework?

There’s no direct pitch to consumers urging you to actually see a movie. Instead, these sites ask you to suspend reality before actually stepping into the theatre. Just check out , which arranges video clips from the film as if sightings of the titular superhero performing incredible feats were being witnessed by some obsessed fan.

What better way to cut through the promotional clutter that has become so enveloped in cliche that the mere sight of a movie poster makes the average eye glaze over? That’s the simple brilliance of “Sarah Marshall,” whose stark black-and-white scrawlings echoing the movie’s title — and referring to the Web site — were crudely effective.

But when too many movies adopt the same understated marketing tone, its novelty wears off. When “Cloverfield” played around with viral strategies, it was cool. Now that everyone else is copying — not so cool.

Fine, you might say, viral marketing isn’t your cup of tea. Why ruin it for those who enjoy it?

But are these elaborate schemes worth the resources the studios devote to them. Even among the most dyed-in-the-wool fans, it is hard to believe too many have the time or inclination to justify all this. And even if they did, what sense is there in pitching woo so fervently to an audience already guaranteed to show up to theatres? Maybe money is better spent targeting audience segments that aren’t as likely to buy tickets.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

DoubleClick’s Self-Publishing Widget Ads May Monetize Social Networks

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

DoubleClick, now a Google property, is launching widget advertising into the self-publishing ad market.

Powered by Gigya Wildfire, the option enables advertisers to encourage viral dissemination of interactive ads across social media. Gigya will provide metrics for advertisers.

DoubleClick expects the medium to blossom into an effective way to monetize social networks.

MySpace Initial Applications Launch

April 2, 2008


by Marta Strickland

MySpace launched their Application Gallery (beta) late last week to pretty quiet fanfare. Beyond the tech community, many probably don’t even know of its existence. MySpace Apps is not yet included in the overall navigation, and with no messaging API that feeds application interaction into a user’s “Friend Subscriptions”, it is going to be a long while before MySpace Apps adoption numbers reach those comparable to Facebook, if ever.

But, it’s early… and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to consider the initial burying of MySpace Apps is on purpose. They still need to work the bugs out and get some proof points under their belt to attract skeptical developers, who have recently feared social network fatigue and application clutter. Having spent an hour or so testing out some of the initial offerings, I think that is probably a very wise strategy. There was equal amount that got me frustrated as there was getting me excited, and to win over the new MySpace audience, they are going to have to improve that ratio.

What Got Me Frustrated
At first I was wooed by Shelfari, due to its pretty interface and mention on Mashable. It has a very engaging interface that makes it fun to search and add books, but after a few bugs in the application flow and the need to sign into a third party site to leave a comment on the book, my hopes fell a bit. Then, add that to a pretty obnoxiously big widget that gets put on my profile, with no way for me to move it down or customize it, leaving only the option to remove it. I was disappointed.


What Got Me Excited Again
I took a peak at what the most popular apps are currently on MySpace. And even know the numbers are small (top app under 12K), I could see a few familiar themes running through the list. I had to smile at the Facebook-ness of an app called “DrinkSocial” which involved cataloging your drinking history and sending beers to your friends. Out of curiosity, I clicked and was very presently surprised at what I found.

Turns out that Hungry Machine has decided to pool together some of their Facebook applications (Beer!, Movies!, Restaurants, Visual Bookshelf, Video Game Rack, and Music!) under a larger umbrella called LivingSocial. All categories work pretty much the same way, which is like Netflix in its ability to rate, review, recommend, and add to your wishlist. Another thing that really impressed me about the series of applications was the ability to truly customize what information gets displayed on your profile.


The interesting twist is that the social contributed content is not just coming from MySpace users, but from wherever else the application is installed (Bebo, Orkut, Facebook). Since there has been some MySpace integration from social content apps, such as Flixter, LivingSocial has the opportunity to dominate against competing app offerings in a new space. And with such openness and integration across many social networks, LivingSocial is certainly putting themselves in an exciting position not only in the social sphere, but to compete with big recommendation engines such as Yelp and even Amazon.

If they could just add WineSocial, then I could seriously get hooked…

Auto Dealers to Increase Online Video, Web 2.0 Tactics

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

Web 2.0 advertising tactics and technologies are gaining traction among auto dealers.

59 percent of them say they plan to use video on their websites within the next 12 months, up from the current 33 percent, according to a study by The Kelsey Group, reports MarketingCharts.


Moreover, by the end of the next 12 months, the proportion of auto dealers using customer ratings and reviews will have risen from 29 percent to 43 percent, and the proportion of those using social-networking sites will go from 15 percent to 33 percent, according to the surveyed dealers.

“These findings point to a significant disruption in the auto dealer advertising space,” said Neal Polachek, CEO of The Kelsey Group. “There are valuable opportunities for traditional and new media companies that tune into dealers’ adoption of Web 2.0 technologies and align with dealers’ online media-buying intentions.”

Also according to the survey:

  • In general, auto dealers are shifting more of their media mix online, with 62 percent planning to increase online media spending in the next 12 months, compared with only 17 percent for traditional media.

  • Moreover, 46 percent of dealers will decrease spending on traditional media, compared with only 8 percent for online media.

About the study: The Kelsey Group Auto Dealer study was conducted in February 2008 via online survey. The survey of dealer online advertising practices and intentions was performed to identify best practices and trends in dealer use of various internet advertising types. The sample comprised tier-three dealers (no OEMs or associations), with 71 percent of respondents identified as owner, principal, vice-president or general manager.

MMO Games Are The Evolution Of Social Networks

April 2, 2008

Media Post Publications

by Tameka Kee, Wednesday, Mar 5, 2008 7:30 AM ET

PROPERTIES LIKE FACEBOOK AND MYSPACE don’t just have to deal with issues like user attrition from “social network fatigue” or inventory monetization challenges. According to Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, they also face a growing threat from an unlikely source — massively multiplayer online (MMO) games.


Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference on Tuesday, Kotick said that MMO games like World of Warcraft are a unique blend of “a social network with an entertainment experience,” and they’re drawing in users and their wallets by the millions–with advertisers eager to follow.

World of Warcraft recently surpassed the 10 million subscriber mark in January, making it the most popular MMO worldwide. Kotick said that players spend an average of 3.5 hours per day with the game–with particularly rabid fans clocking in 6 hours. “It’s replacing TV and other activities for a certain type of audience,” Kotick said, even eclipsing time spent congregating on social networks.

The gamers are also willing to spend on products like mission expansion packs. “These extras cost a fraction of what our users pay for cable, for a cell phone or food per month, Kotick said. “And if you ask them to give any one of those up for more time with World of Warcraft, they will.” But Kotick added that there’s also the possibility of ad-sponsored supplemental content, particularly with games like StarCraft that require shorter sessions.

Still the threat isn’t just coming from hardcore MMOs like World of Warcraft. Even Activision’s Guitar Hero franchise has the potential to disrupt the social networking landscape. The console-based game lets users rock out, competing against each other while trying to play hits from bands like Aerosmith on a full-size replica guitar. While the franchise has raked in sales of more than $1 billion in North America alone, Kotick said the communal gaming stats are even more promising.

“Fifteen million people have purchased the guitars, but 45 million people are using them,” Kotick said. “That three-times pass-along rate speaks to the quality and type of interaction players get from the game. The only thing that’s missing right now is that it’s not over the Web. Right now it’s played in a bar or a living room–with no prize play and no competitions. But that will be the evolution of the medium.”

And Guitar Hero’s demographics range well beyond the typical 18- to 34-year-old male gamer. “The demographic reach is incredible,” Kotick said. “Forty percent of Guitar Hero’s audience is female.”

Still, the most potent threat that social networks face from MMOs (or soon-to-be MMOs like Guitar Hero) is their current lack of marketing infrastructure. “Last year, we would have deployed a lot of marketing capital to sites like Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo and iLike, but they didn’t have the personnel or capacity to take our money,” Kotick said. “There are Guitar Hero groups on Facebook–why wouldn’t we want to reach our audience there? We’re going to continue to shift our dollars away from things like typical or trade marketing to things that are more relevant–but they need monetization strategies first.”

And as social networking sites develop those strategies, Activision will adapt them for their own MMO and socially-focused game properties. “We want to build a rate card for advertisers that has validity and credibility,” Kotick said. “It’s still the early days, but those same marketing principles will be the ones that we get.”

World of Warcraft is published by Irvine, Calif.-based Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Vivendi Games that Activision made a deal to merge with in late 2007. Once the acquisition closes, the new company’s name will be Activision Blizzard, and will operate as a subsidiary of Paris-based Vivendi SA.


What NOT to do when moving to Web 2.0

April 2, 2008

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.

Social Media and Web 2.0

March 20, 2008

Last week, I opened my inbox to find a newsletter in my inbox with a scary subject line: “93 percent of Websites to Add Web 2.0 Functionality in 2008.”It was based on a recent survey. Reading on, it said “More than half of online businesses plan to add Web 2.0 capabilities to their sites in the next six months to enhance their sites’ user experiences. And over 93 percent plan to do the same in the next 12 months.”

Why is this so alarming? Because more corporate sites are looking to “create communities” and “leverage Web 2.0 technologies” in ways that make no sense for their audience. They’re caught up in the buzz. Companies are creating community types of content people are interested in with no long-term consideration.

Even the headline of that study may be a little overstated. Features listed as “Web 2.0” include stuff like alternate and 360-degree views, personalized messaging, and rollover views. So the article illustrates once again the meaninglessness of the term “Web 2.0.” For this reason, a friend of mine calls it “Web 2.0ver.”

Other numbers we can point to indicate a much more interesting change is happening, and there’s a meaningful way we can talk about Web 2.0. For me, it’s summed up in a word: “participation.” The technology is fundamentally the same, which isn’t to say it hasn’t evolved. But there’s been a real shift in the expectations of Internet users — a shift that’s accelerated dramatically in the past two years.

What does this really mean? I asked Ryan Turner, a colleague, social media expert, and blogger, for his take on where all of this is going, and what companies may be risking in their effort to jump on the bandwagon.

“The real change businesses are facing is moving from a broadcast model for the Web to a participatory, relational model, where the Web is a true business channel,” Turner said. “And the shift has huge business impacts that require a rethinking of Web channel strategy, planning, and management. It requires new skill sets (like online community moderation), and new contributions from roles traditionally focused on other channels (like technical support and customer service).”

Turner shared some of the common pitfalls companies experience when shifting the way in which they communicate with customers and prospects:

  • A tool-centric approach. It’s just so tempting to want to “build community around the brand” using one of the suite of over-hyped tools available today. Ratings, reviews, comment threads, wikis, discussion, chat, RSS, SMS, IM, blogs, vlogs, moblogs, podcasts, video podcasts, collective intelligence, affinity recommendations, prediction markets, and on and on. None of these is really community. The social Web is comprised of people, relationships among people, and the things people create and share. Marketers must think strategically about their offerings, not be swayed by the purveyors of technology “solutions.”
  • Failure to plan for ongoing engagement. Too often people don’t think about what this is going to look like or demand down the road.
  • Doing it for the sake of doing it. Companies need to ask if it really makes sense for their clients and prospects. Will people truly want to engage?
  • Failing to measure. There’s always the need to accurately define what success looks like and determine the best way to measure that success. And a corollary to that: misunderstanding how to measure.

Most importantly, Web 2.0 sites must add value to a business’ core offering. What Microsoft did with The Art of Office contest was brilliant because they added a library of reusable user-generated documents to their Office for Mac offering. That’s the kind of alignment marketers should strive for. There’s also some value in simple transparency and accessibility. Open communication channels with customers and see what happens.

Take the time to think before plunging in head first to build community and leverage Web 2.0 concepts. You must ask yourself if it truly make sense for you and your audience, or if you’re simply getting caught up in the hype?