Web 2.0 Still In Early Stages

A majority of marketers are not familiar with the term “Web 2.0,” and of those who are only a third are using Web 2.0 tactics, according to a recent survey of marketing professionals by MarketTools’ Zoomerang division.

The study, conducted in early November, asked 400 U.S. marketers on Zoomerang’s Web-based panel several questions about “Web 2.0” in order to separate buzzword hype from marketing reality. The survey found that, while relatively few respondents are familiar with the concepts, or are employing Web 2.0 tactics, most of the ones that are doing so are having success.

“Our benchmark survey indicates that Web 2.0 is in the initial phase of adoption and implementation by marketers,” said Dana Meade, general manager of Zoomerang. “However, given the success reported by vanguard users, we expect to see a sharp increase in the use of second-generation Web tools and techniques by marketers across a wide array of industries.”

The panel was made up of management-level marketers in several industries, from advertising, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and media to financial services, healthcare and manufacturing. Just 86 respondents, or 21.5 percent, were familiar with the term “Web 2.0”, and about a third of those, or 7 percent overall, said they were employing the tactics.

According to Mark Kingdon, CEO of Organic, it’s not surprising that relatively few marketers were familiar with the term. “If you’re a CMO on a leading brand, it’s likely you’re spending less than one-fifth of your marketing budget on interactive media, and the lion’s share of that is going to search. So it’s not surprising that many marketers are still unaware of Web 2.0 and what it means,” Kingdon told ClickZ.

The tactics the 28 respondents use include corporate or employee blogs, at 57 percent; social networking at 50 percent; podcasting at 39 percent; peer services at 32 percent; video sharing at 29 percent; and advertainment at 25 percent. The tactics themselves are not as important as the strategy behind them, Gary Stein, director of strategy for Ammo Marketing, told ClickZ.

“Web 2.0 technologies, by definition, are tactics. As such, they are definitely ‘flavor-of-the-month.’ The same can be said for a lot of the use of Web 2.0 concepts, as they are applied to advertising. It’s a tactic that helps to differentiate. As such, they will be used until their novelty wears thin, or the next great thing comes along,” Stein said.

“But, if a company is instead shifting the nature of the way they connect with consumers to focus more on conversations and sharing, then they are in fact moving into a new realm of marketing,” Stein said. “Many of them are using Web 2.0 technology to enable this, but the significant shift is toward a new way of dealing with those who buy your product.”

Most of the respondents’ Web 2.0 initiatives are either unfunded, in 21 percent of cases, or receive less than 10 percent of the marketing budget, as in 29 percent of responses. About a third of responses couldn’t put a budget amount to these initiatives. That’s likely to change, as more marketers are coming to terms with the loss of control involved, Adam Cahill, VP and director of client services at Carat Fusion, told ClickZ.

“Many of our clients are actively planning for some very interesting 2.0 initiatives, but it will probably be three to six months before they launch,” he said. “The reality is that when marketers think about giving up some level of control of their messages, there is a high level of perceived risk. Companies are working through those issues right now.”

Of the 28 respondents in Zoomerang’s survey that are using Web 2.0 tactics, five said the efforts are “very successful” and 15 said they are “somewhat successful”. Only one said the efforts were not successful, while the remaining seven respondents said the jury is still out.

At its core, Web 2.0 is technology enabling some very basic and enduring human needs — to create, share, and connect, Cahill said. “So we should expect this to be the new reality, not a passing trend. It’s hard to imagine consumers suddenly deciding, ‘we’d like to be passive recipients again,'” he said.

One of the biggest barriers for marketers is the fear of losing control of the message, Cahill said. To help clients get over that, he recommends they do a search on YouTube or MySpace on their brand names. “Once these marketers realize the conversation is already taking place, with or without them, they’ll likely be more interested in facilitating that conversation somehow,” he said.

That consumers are engaging in conversations about a brand is nothing new, but the public forum created by blogs and other consumer-generated media makes creating and maintaining a brand more of an “open source” effort, Kingdon said.

“Consumers have long had fiery and provocative conversations about brands, but it took blogs and other consumer-generated media to make this visible to ivory tower marketers. Now that conversation is visible, and of concern,” he said. “Smart marketers understand how important it is to engage their customers in a dialog. These marketers use blogs and other high-engagement media as a staple in their interactive marketing programs.”

Kingdon’s advice for marketers looking to embark on a Web 2.0 strategy is to “shut up and listen,” he said. “Your customers have a lot to say. Stop broadcasting messages they TiVo out anyway and hear what they have to say. Once you’ve done that, you can think about a thoughtful engagement strategy.”

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