Are you leveraging Web 2.0 for your business?

There’s a lot of hype, misinformation and general confusion around the term Web 2.0.  There’s also an entire generation entering the workforce (“Generation Net”) that’s never known a world without being connected and interacting over the web.

So what is Web 2.0?  As a small business owner should you care? and how does it apply now or in the near future?

First off I’ll take a shot at a definition/explanation:

Here’s a mindmap that was developed by Tim O’Reilly in an article he wrote in September of 2005 (What is Web 2.0?) (Click the graphic to see a larger version)

Web 2.0 Mindmap

From the Wikipedia entry on Web 2.0 wiki Web_2, here are some of the primary Web 2.0 characteristics :

  • “Network as platform”  delivering (and allowing users to use) applications entirely through a browser.
  • Users owning the data on a site and exercising control over that data.
  • An architecture of participation that encourages users to add value to the application as they use it.  This stands in sharp contrast to hierarchical access control in applications, in which systems categorize users into roles with varying degrees of functionality.
  • A rich, interactive, user-friendly interface based on Ajax or similar frameworks.
  • Some social-networking aspects.
    I’m not an expert on this, but if I had to simplify and summarize my understanding, Web 2.0 is the evolution of the internet, primarily the critical addition of interactivity and simple sharing of information in all sorts of formats based on the user’s needs and wants (and not the providers).
    Greg Balanko-Dickson (who is an expert on this…) did a great series of articles on Relationships 2.0 (i.e. using Web 2.0 to build relationships with customers).  You can see the first article here.
    The reason I was sparked on this topic was a couple of articles that I read today along with an interesting conversation I had last night.
    First up was a column in the Kansas City Star from Diane Stafford – Web 2.0 the next frontier, the article was a write-up of a seminar on Web 2.0 Marketing that she attended.  Her conclusion is that a Web 2.0 approach is the future of marketing, but there’s a long way to go before people really understand and embrace it.
    Next up was an article/blog entry from FastCompany – Web 2.0 and Personal Branding.  The interesting quote out of the article that caught my eye was:

“Suddenly, thanks to web sites and interactive tools like blogs, podcasts and video, you have the opportunity for seemingly gazillions of people (over a billion folks today are online) to know about you and your brand. Frankly, if you’re not taking advantage of this, you’re not truly marketing.”

So all of this would tend to lead you to believe that it’s all about technology and, if you believe the hype, the spoils will go to whoever can use the most widgets, gadgets and online sophistication.

Which leads me to the conversation I had with Bill Patterson of Nation Ranch, a Marketing Communications firm here in Kansas City. (link to the Nation Ranch Blog).  The logo for Nation Ranch is a steaming coffee cup, symbolizing that business, even in today’s high tech world, is done over a cup of coffee – by people. 

Bill’s point (borrowed from his website) is the following:

Technology is an important means of communicating with your customers, but technology should only facilitate human interaction and not replace human interactions with your customers.

The conclusion that I reached from all of this (I’m sure you were hoping I had a point here somewhere…) is that Web 2.0 technology is important now but it’s most important that you connect with your customers as a person.

To quote Jeffrey Gitomer (among others) “People buy from People” and even more importantly, “People buy from people they know, like and trust”.

So what are some things you should be considering?

  1. Start off small – get a website!  According to the 2007 survey done by the NSBA (NSBA survey) only 60% of businesses have a website.  Even if you only put up a page or two describing who you are, what you do and why someone should work with you, it would put you in the game.  Money much better spent than a phone book ad for most businesses (in my opinion).
  2. Start learning about all of this new technology.  You don’t need to be an expert, but you should get comfortable with the basic terminology and products and tools that are available.
  3. Consider starting a blog.  It can even take the place of a website.  I’ve seen several businesses that use their blog as their business website.  With the blogging platforms that are available now, anyone can easily learn and be up and running in no time.  I use WordPress, but Blogger, Typepad and others are all viable options.
  4. Consider talking to an expert in the space.  I already mentioned Nation Ranch, but you could also talk to Matt Simpson at Infusion Creative or Tobin Truog at Brain Bucket all of them are great guys that have some fantastic ideas on how small businesses can embrace the internet.

I’m sure I missed a ton of ideas – are you using anything unique or interesting to take advantage of new technology that is actively bringing you customers?  Share it here.

Shawn Kinkade

1 thought on “Are you leveraging Web 2.0 for your business?”

  1. Thanks for the mention and reference to Relationships 2.0 – I purposely did not focus on the technology – its the relationships or the opportunity to initiate, network, and build relationships online.

    I like your article, it is well thought out and those you quote are people that get it.

    Using the tools you mention as a bridge to initiate relationships is an emerging best practice.

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