Byline: Steve. In my last post I discussed the definition of Web 2.0 and the fact that it encompasses many things. RIAs, social networking, and user-generated content all have a home in the Web 2.0 world. Let's stick with the strictest definition for a moment and examine the impact on marketers and marketing.
Web 2.0 applications are those that leverage powerful network effects. That is, those things that get better the more people use them. Think of a social network with only a few members - limited usefulness, right? How about MySpace with over 100 million members? Some would argue that's too big to be useful, but in fact it's so big that micro-communities within MySpace have sprouted up along different demographic lines. If YouTube had a couple of funny videos it would be mildly interesting, but with over 100,000 new videos added every day it's become THE source for online video. For now, anyway. And so it goes with all Web 2.0 applications. This blog is only effective if people read it, link to it, comment, or forward it to their friends.
But if end users are generating content, what does marketing do? Well, they worry. User-generated content can be as simple as the "rate this movie" button on NetFlix or the "write a review" box on Amazon.com. Or it can be as complex as those idiots with the Mentos and Diet Coke. The point is, if the users are generating comments, reviews, ratings, and stunts, then marketers are no longer in control of the message. Marketers are at the mercy of the market. The world is turned upside down.
Marketers, and I am one, are very protective of their brand and their product. They spend all day crafting just the right messages to position their offerings just so. They agonize over individual words in the tag line, or the colors in the logo. Then some moron comes along and writes something bad about their offering in a blog review and all that work seems wasted. Thus, the title of this post, Web 2.0 is the bane of marketers.
Do you think the folks at Mentos or Coca-Cola were thrilled to see their products being used in such an inappropriate manner? Their brands hijacked to make a funny video? Turns out, the guys at Mentos were thrilled, while the Coke people found it less amusing. That is, until they were able to tap into the viral popularity of the phenomenon with their own site called "The Coke Show."
A ha. So there's hope. Marketers can actually leverage the power of Web 2.0 to further their brand, enhance their reputation, and build awareness. Maybe Web 2.0 isn't the bane of marketers after all...