Robert Rose, CrownPeak Technology
I think we can all agree that, at this point, the term “Web 2.0” is overhyped. In fact, I haven’t seen this much hype since the last time Brad and Angelina decided to adopt.
As digital marketers, we’re being told that we need to (by tomorrow’s close of business) develop the corporate blog, produce a podcast, provide mechanisms to rate our content, accept user comments on the web site and create the new mashup of digg/YouTube/del.icio.us and wrap it all in Ajax. And, these days, we can be in such a hurry to implement these new technologies that we forget the fact that they should actually serve some function. In other words, we spend all our time getting the house ready for the party, and we forget to send the invitations.
As stewards of our online messages—whether through a website, email campaigns, advertising, blogs, et cetera—we are faced with a seemingly endless barrage of new technologies. Heck, I plead guilty to succumbing to many of them myself. Now, to be fair, many of these new technologies can indeed take our online marketing efforts to the next level. And our customers are going to come to expect these capabilities from us in the near term.
But, just as important is our ability to deliver on the promise of Web 2.0. Don’t forget the overarching lessons of Web 1.0 circa 1997 to 2000: Don’t build technology just because you can (in fact, you shouldn’t really “build” technology ever again, but that’s a different article).
Also, don’t expect people to come just because you build it. Finally, and most importantly, don’t build Web 2.0 technology until you are ready to support it with the effort and maybe even more importantly, the content it will require.
Let’s look at a few Web 2.0 capabilities and some helpful safety tips as you decide when and how to deploy them.
By its very definition, podcasting refers to “a media file that is distributed over the internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and personal computers.” However, the unwritten rule is that podcasts should be updated frequently. For podcasts to be successful, you need to be prepared to produce them on a regular enough basis that whoever is subscribing will see updates often enough to keep subscribing. Publishing one audio file every few months is not a podcast. If you have an audio file (or several) you would like to make available to your website users, by all means publish them out and link them from your website like you would any other media on your site. But don’t market your “podcast” until you’re really ready to make frequent contributions.
National Public Radio offers an excellent example of the benefits to podcasting. NPR now makes many of its shows available via podcasts. Available at any time for listener convenience, NPR now has a much larger audience for niche shows like “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”
Blogs have certainly become the buzz du jour on the internet, and have really become a favorite staple for marketers to increase their “content footprint” on their websites. Blogs are an excellent online marketing tool for generating search engine optimization, cross-linking, and site expansion. However, before you launch your blog, remember that not unlike a podcast, users will expect your blog to change frequently. I’m not suggesting that your blog has to change three times a day, but publishing one post every couple of months is not going to give you the traffic you think it might. When committing to a blog, commit to a regular update and stick to it. Additionally, be prepared to reply to comments that your web users post. A blog is a conversation, not a soapbox. Make sure you have the tools to monitor user-generated content on your blog and be prepared toput them to use.
User-generated ratings and content
Giving users the ability to do many things related to the content on your website is growing in popularity. Whether it is rating content in the customer help section, posting comments to articles, or generating their own original content, given the opportunity your customers are investing time in your brand and trying to communicate with you. If you aren’t ready to affect change on content based on its rating or respond to user-generated content directly, then don’t launch it.
Upgrading from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0
New technologies can exponentially add to your online marketing efforts. But there are a few things you should consider as you start to plan for these upgrades:
- Consider web content management tools that can manage content both outbound to the website and inbound from the website. Enabling the content to come into your content management system and integrate with workflow means comments from customers won’t get lost in the corporate email shuffle.
- Consider website management solutions that integrate with other best-of-breed site management solutions. These capabilities are really the heart of what I like to call, “The 2.0 Business Web.” Software delivered as a service (SaaS) plays a role here. But more importantly, it’s about being able to react quickly as new capabilities come up and avoid having to replace an entire solution based on one new technology.
- Consider tasking one or more of your internal personnel with being the “voice.” Whether it’s an executive in marketing, the customer service group, or a member of the web team, assign an “owner” to the content that needs to be generated, edited, and published to the website for all of these new Web 2.0 capabilities.
Most importantly, remember: technology is only as good as your understanding of its benefits. Keep your features in check with your capabilities and never allow flashy gadgets, terminology, or hype to outweigh the basic tenets of good marketing practices. Remember, Web 3.0 is less than 200 days away, and we haven’t even started our shopping list yet.
Rob Rose is vice president for marketing and product strategy for CrownPeak Technology.