No doubt you've heard plenty about "Web 2.0" lately. Of course, just because you've heard of it doesn't mean you actually know what it is.
Don't fret. A lot of the folks who bandy the term around don't really know all that much about it, either. Basically, it describes the next generation of online services delivered through the Web. Think of Flickr, Wikipedia, Ning, and del.icio.us, and you'll get the point.
The idea behind all these ventures is a good one: use the power of the Internet to hook people together to create content, share expertise, and provide checks and balances through social interaction. People have stuff they want to share (or axes to grind or stuff they want to say), so giving them a place to express themselves and a community of users to share it with will result in a system that grows exponentially through the network effect to become more than the sum of its parts. There's even a new browser, Flock, designed around the concept that the browsing experience can be enhanced when users can share favorites and tags seamlessly through the Web.
Basically, we're talking open source content, and open source has worked pretty well as a software development methodology. Social networks built around a common aim can be pretty powerful.
But lately, cracks have begun to appear in Web 2.0 nirvana. Regardless of the breathless pronouncements of some, the limits of user-supplied content are starting to become apparent in terms of both the quality and system misappropriation. Spammers have tried to hijack Flickr with those annoying "win an free iPod" ads, and Wikipedia has been called to task for accuracy problems. The backlash is starting.
But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Openness does have its limits. As Xeni Jardin said recently on "Wired News," "When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer." On the other hand, inviting your users to supply content in the form of pictures, video, tags, reviews, stories, and so on, can really help develop community. And as many bloggers have learned, participating in these kinds of things can help raise your profile and provide a forum for you ideas (provided you've got good ones) as a way of helping your business or promoting your products and services.
How should marketers look at the possibilities of Web 2.0? If you're thinking about utilizing social networking or other Web 2.0-like services on your own site, or you want to look into the marketing possibilities offered by these services, here are six rules to remember:
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Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.
December 5, 2013
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