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So what’s the big deal? Believe it or not, the Internet has reinvented itself into an even more social medium . In the early days (8-years ago), it was perfectly acceptable for Web 1.0 sites to be static and unidirectional. In those days, it was about being “online” and having a “web presence.” Those days are over. The new web is a conversation . Markets are conversations. Consumers are talking back to us, and they expect more from us and our web sites. Much more. And they want communication now .
Information & Communication Now! The Web 2.0 movement has done some interesting things to internet-connected audiences. Foremost, its spoiled them… They want information now and they want it where ever they happen to be and at that particular moment. No waiting. Now. They’re so… demanding … Gosh!!
Unreasonable Demands? So what’s so wrong with wanting information now? (Nothing.) What’s so wrong with wanting information to be dispersed and where ever you are? (Nothing.) Well… there’s probably nothing wrong here. Or, at least, this could be pretty easy for you. Sometimes. Well, most of the time at least. If you have a large support staff. Um, Right? Right??
So, Is this going to hurt? Nope. It doesn’t have to be a painful decision to make your information available immediately via multiple platforms and in immediately accessible bits. You just need to work smart; embrace the Web 2.0, and leverage the new “social media” to spread your message. And you’ll look like a hero at work. (Maybe just without the cape and red tights).
The New Web (Web 2.0) Remember that Web 2.0 is about conversation . In the “new Web, ” consumers talk back… Oh, and they talk to each other too. Often. And they have no qualms about talking to each other behind your back either. Are they being sneaky? Are they gossips? Nope. We’re just not joining in on the conversation. Believe me; we’re welcome to talk. We just can’t dominate the conversation.
Ok. I’m ready to talk. How? Great! But there’s no ONE way to do this. Fortunately, the Web 2.0 has given us a lot of tools to use for this conversation we’re going to have with our users (consumers). Almost too many tools… Now, which tool you use will depend entirely on the conversation you intend to have… But coming to your users also matters a great deal too. Remember that they want immediate access to info, but they also want it where they can share it with colleagues, append to it and comment. Syndication is a good place to start though.
Syndication? Syndication? Like the A.P. News wire? Well, sort of. I mean “RSS” (Really Simple Syndication). Like below. That ain’t simple, Brent.
RSS is easy. Really. Code can be scary. The nice people who built Web 2.0 know that though, and they’ve given us some cool tools to prevent unnecessary “code exposure.” That’s good. Most blogging software packages allow for content syndication. E.g., RSS “feeds”. I’m talking 99% of the software out there. So, I don’t need to code anything to have RSS? Nah. That’s the great part. But do you know what else? If you’re selective about where you choose to do your blogging, you’ll find that you’ve also seeded a community with your information in a locale that your users already visit. Oh yeah? Yeah. Is anyone else in on this “RSS” product? Am I the first? Um, no. Not exactly…
Ok. We get the point. See? Lots of companies are doing it. Blogging gets you into the conversation, and will--more often than not-- allow for your content to be syndicated, conversed over and shared. Hmm. Ok. What else can we do with this blogging thing? Lots of things. A “blog,” by definition, is really open-ended. The examples I shared with you have a primarily promotional and marketing focus, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Lots of companies use their blogs for training. Really? Do people use them? Oh, yeah. Here are just a very few. http://googlemapsapi.blogspot.com/ http://blogs.adobe.com/ http://mcore.wordpress.com/ http://visuallounge.techsmith.com/ http://nikonblog.wordpress.com/ http://blogs.adobe.com/dreamweaver/ http://weblogs.asp.net/
How does this help with access? I’m glad you asked. RSS/XML is a portable document format schema that, by itself, has no true structure. Yes; it has syntax and semantics, but the ultimate content is up to you. What’s more, is that since the schema is so open-ended, it can be digested on a variety of platforms, including WAP-enabled devices. Uh, WAP what? XML? Suffice it to say that if you build a blog, they will come for the RSS. To the user, RSS is extremely easy to use and syndicate across a variety of sites. So, don’t be surprised to see your single RSS feed syndicated to dozens or hundreds of other sites after you release it onto your own, just like an A.P. News wire story might show up in hundreds of newspapers. Also, RSS works on many cell phones so users can pull up the latest info on the run. Oh, ok.
So, what else can I do? Wiki’s are neat. You know, let the users develop the documentation for you then you can just edit it? I’ve seen that. Wikipedia is great, but Wiki’s can be trouble too. You’re right, of course. But, you know? Written words are great, but they can sometimes only get you but so far. Tell me about it. Fortunately, the Web 2.0 content syndication idea extends into photos, video and audio too. What’s particularly interesting is that this extra photo/video/audio extension doesn’t cost a whole lot more to implement either. Its really just a question of acquiring the right equipment on your end – hosting and sharing online is generally free. Neato.
Existing User Groups Often times, large, consumer products companies find that once they take the leap into “Web 2.0 land”, that many of their users have already organized into large communities. These communities may be mostly harmless, or they could represent the outcome of a one-way stream of communication from a business entity to its end-users. That is, we’re late on the scene and the users have taken the initiative to start the conversation without us. After all, they need to find out how to use the thing one way or another! And learning from another user works out just fine.
Web 2.0 is Portable . Hey, no big deal. So, your users started up their own user group on site X and you’re using service Y. Well, remember that whole syndication idea? Don’t feel left out of the party. Just point your users at your syndication feeds on service Y via site X; they’ll either switch over, or bring your content into their preferred service or format. And that’s the real beauty of the new “Web 2.0” schema. Its completely portable. Users can digest the information they want/need when they want it, how they want it. And you are free to leverage their materials to make your own better. Turnabout is fair play. And sharing expected in the Web 2.0 world. Its part of the inherent culture .
Web 2.0 is about sharing . Yes, the Web 2.0 is about sharing. Its also about conversation, and conversation is also sharing. See how nicely that fits together. In the end, these new technologies allow users the benefit of taking your content with them. They can digest it in an environment that suits their needs, and then tell you about it. You also benefit from hearing from your users; watching their habits; learning from their techniques and listening to their feedback.
Remember that scary list of Web 2.0 Companies? There are a LOT of social media platforms out there, all based on the same basic schema. So, the bottom line is that no one of them packs the perfect product for distributing your message – but the underlying capabilities of Web 2.0 era sharing allow your message to move throughout this massive network of sites and, ultimately, be presented to the right users, at the right time. Its not vital that you belong to every one of these sites; and its not important that you upload and update info to each. That’s wasteful. But you do want to open the door to content syndication which, in turn, allows your content to automatically begin permeating the Web 2.0 field.
Final Thoughts. "Online markets... Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally serverd them. Thanks to the web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations." The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual : Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searts, David Weinberger; Perseus Books (c) 2000