Byline: Steve. So, to really leverage this Web 2.0 fad (no more debating about whether it's a fad or not, the term will fade away over time, like "multimedia" and that question becomes irrelevant) marketers can employ several tactics, including social networks, user-generated content, and rich Internet applications (RIAs). Everyone is already trying to use RIAs where they make sense, and the challenge there is simply measuring the impact, because RIAs require a more significant development investment than static Web pages. Ok, I'll say it --> It's important to understand the ROI of RIAs. It may no longer be sufficient to simply measure page-views to understand Web site utilization. No, page views aren't dead, they're just becoming a little long in the tooth is all.
More interesting is the use, by marketers, of social networks and user-generated content. Take this blog for example. This blog is an effort on the part of Unica to reach out to our customers and prospective customers and the other people who influence our industry. We know that if we put our opinions out there we open oursleves to criticism and commentary from competitors and detractors. We know that by enabling public comments that we are opening oursleves to negative feedback. And yet this blog is really an opportunity for us to show that we have smart people, with strong opinions, who are building the products that will power our customers' marketing success. This blog is a social media outlet, and it will get better over the next several months as we invite more participation from inside and outside of Unica.
A blog is a pretty simple thing to set up, by the way. This one is generated using TypePad, a hosted service from SixApart. Other easy-to-use and free solutions for professional blogging include Blogger, from Google, and of course WordPress.
But some marketers can choose to be even more aggressive in their use of Web 2.0 and deploy a full-blown social network. These tactics probably work best when the target audience is consumer oriented, as opposed to business professionals. But we're still just at the beginning and who knows what new applications we'll find for social media and user-generated content.
Many media sites use technology from companies like Pluck to deploy social networking functionality to large audiences. Check out the variety of social networking functionality promoting the "American Idol" television show available at MyIdol.com. This is a great example of marketing via community, or social, involvement. Not that "American Idol" needs a lot of extra promotion, but this site is a great way to foster and encourage the natural buzz that accompanies such event TV. There are many companies providing technology platforms that allow almost out-of-the-box social networking functionality, like Sparta Social Networks, Five Across, owned by Cisco, and Crowd Factory. Or my previous employer, KickApps.
If you're going to venture into this world, it's important to find a partner like those I've listed above because they really understand the ins and outs of this Web 2.0 stuff. There are lots of issues to consider, like content ownership and licensing, usability, privacy, and COPPA compliance (if you don't know what COPPA is, that just shows you how much there is to consider, because it's really important in this space). A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that while the majority of executives (79%) saw opportunity in Web 2.0 technologies, they also acknowledged a lack of resources and understanding that would enable them to take advantage of it.
The net several posts will dive deeper into the really important pieces of Web 2.0 and Internet Marketing in general, that is the measurment of its effectiveness.