The evolution of Web 2.0 over the last decade has had a remarkably profound effect on the way we choose to interact with each other. From passive Internet consumption in the 80’s and 90’s where a website was indistinguishable from the next, to today’s proliferation of User Generated Content (UGC) that gives users control.
From the avid social media fanatic championing this evolution, to the grandson who gave his granny a discount code from Twitter to buy cheaper bird feed. Like it or not, we are all in some way affected by Web2.0.
Web 2.0 makes it easier for the ‘little guys’ in our industry to play in areas previously unimaginable to them. Enterprise-level applications are now easily within the reach of SMBs and organisations with limited budget enabling businesses to stand shoulder to shoulder with larger corporates. Information is now shared, discussed, and modified so much faster than was previously imagined, and all for a fraction of the budget previously allocated for marketing. Web 2.0 clearly offers plenty of benefits that many would be wise to envelop into their communication strategy.
Unfortunately, it is still common for some to overlook the need to research Web2.0 adequately and as a result expose their businesses to those happy to take advantage of their naivety. Scammers, spoofers and the like set out to convince others to unwittingly provide valuable information, much to the detriment of their victim, their business, and worse still, their associated friends and peers.
If you are still trying to ensure that Web2.0 works better for you rather than against you, there are two things you should consider:
The first is that the use of social media is a science in itself and thankfully there are many well-respected experts in place to help us. Rather than obsess about what Twitter name you should have or if having sub 100 ‘friends’ is a slight on your reputation, you should start with the basics and firstly understand its impact on your business. Like those in the alcohol industry, you should be Web2.0aware.com.
When you change any aspect of your business ecosystem, there is always a yin and yang effect. Whilst it’s easier to spot the more obvious pros and cons, it’s very easy to miss the subtle and yet important outcomes. New behaviours can arise as a result of implementing concepts such as social media and therefore, the way you interpret and manage the results must adapt too. Social networking for example forces you to consider audience’s expectations better, its usability, and its “naturalistic discourse“. Without properly understanding the bigger picture (i.e what’s point of your business?) and how your business can accommodate it, you risk negating your potential. And in our consumer-driven world where we want everything yesterday, it’s critical that what you do say counts.
Being mindful of the fact that whilst using social media tools at little or no cost to the P&L does not mean that it has little influence on the bottom line. Publishing into the ether bears no relevance to a business unless the results can be monetised. Any Facebook user should be able to see how this company is where it is in terms of financial success and it’s sheer celebrity status in the 21st Century. Don’t be disappointed when you learn it’s definitely not because Facebook genuinely cares about your Aunt Joan’s uploaded holiday photos from the Maldives.
The ability to mine information as a revenue stream didn’t spring up overnight despite it’s recent explosion. In fact, it’s probably concepts such as loyalty card schemes now over 30 years old that lead the way. Terms such as ‘Cloud’, ‘Social Media’, and ‘Web’ are not miraculous overnight successes. It’s taken many years in various guises to get to where it is today using evolving technology that has allowed us to better facilitate our dreams.
Maybe more and more people are showing interest in Web2.0 because of the growing number of small businesses. Maybe more of those who are trying to build businesses are substituting Web2.0’s ease-of-use for good hard elbow grease in the hope to become an overnight success. Doesn’t everyone know that an overnight success takes years of hard work?
The second, and perhaps more important point is that businesses must maintain a humane business model that doesn’t use social media to avoid actually getting out there. In the past, letters, faxes, and cold calling were used as a crutch that allowed many to avoid people. Social media is just a re-enforcement of your integrity and expertise, it’s a foot in the door but could never replace you or your ability to effectively engage with your customers.
Whilst Web 1.0 created an network of websites that were indistinguishable, today’s Web2.0 users risk being subjected to a fire-hose of information that could potentially lead to unnecessary confusion or worse, indifference. You must cut through that noise to create a platform that offers value to your audience and the opportunity to prove it. Don’t become someone whose bark is worse than their bite.
Social media is a tool that no matter what form it takes, will never replace a good old fashioned chat over a cup of tea and a slice of cake. You learn so much from engaging in this way to talk about what really matters to them… even if you don’t figure on that list right now.
Don’t let Social Media become a crutch for your business if what it actually needs is a review of its business model. Understand how to make better use of Web2.0 and in doing so, you’ll avoid becoming a business that spends all their time shouting and not listening.
Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.