Make Web 2.0 a Rebel with a Cause


Remember Marlon Brando's quote from the early biker flick "The Wild One"? When he's asked what he's rebelling against, he replies, "Whaddaya got?" That's great if you're a nihilist, but not so great if you're a CIO trying to determine how you can help your company. There's never an easy answer, but especially not now as budgets contract right along with the economy.


So what about Web 2.tools and technologies? I recently wondered whether the recessionary environment would be a good thing or a bad thing for them. Some experts think that the relatively low entry-level price points of such tools, combined with companies' need to develop and maintain close relationships with their customers at a time when many consumers are cutting back on spending will lead more companies to give Web 2.0 a try. Others aren't so sure, saying that few CIOs will want to allocate any funds to largely untested tools.


There have been enough successes to drive increased interest among at least some IT executives, including the 30 in attendance at a recent Corporate IT Forum. Within the past year, there's been marked growth in the numbers of tech execs expressing interest in tools such as Faceobok and Twitter, writes Ollie Ross in a silicon.com article about the event. The attendees, all of whom were from large companies, shared some interesting examples of how their companies had adapted such tools for their own use. One company created an internal version of Twitter to help employees swap ideas and share relevant corporate information. Another created a Facebook page to attract job candidates and let them communicate with staffers. It also launched an internal social network where new hires could support each other as they got up to speed.


One of the biggest bugaboos for the attendees, writes Ross, is the concern that staff will "make unfortunate comments about customers" in a public network such as Facebook or create their own blog or other forum where they might make comments about their work. As Ross writes, and as some companies have discovered the hard way, they may be liable for these kinds of employee communications. Let's not forget, as IT Business Edge blogger Ralph DeFrangesco recently pointed out, "security was an afterthought" for the companies that created networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Both Ross and DeFrangesco conclude that while there is business value in Web 2.0, IT pros need to take an active role in creating and implementing the appropriate checks and balances to reduce risks and maximize opportunities.


Still, it's important for companies to have a valid reason for trying Web 2.0 rather than doing it simply because "all of the other companies" appear to be doing so, as I wrote in November. In that post, I cited a SearchCRM.com article with what I thought was a great quote from Gartner analyst Adam Sarner. He said:


Every social application needs a mutual purpose -- what's in it for the customer and what's in it for the company. Companies in the next two years are all going to struggle with this idea of mutual purpose. As economic times get bad, it's going to be vital to prove the value.


In other words, make sure you give some serious thought to your social media strategies. Don't just throw them out there and expect them to stick. The latter approach is one of six social media "myths" debunked by B.L. Ochman in a post on her whatsnextblog.com. This idea of "if you build it, they will come" appears to be pretty common when it comes to Web 2.0. A Deloitte analyst who wrote a report on online customer communities said he was "shocked" to find that relatively few companies assigned full-time staff to maintain and monitor their social media channels.


Among the other "myths" that Ochman shoots down: Social media is cheap. The budget for an effective social media marketing campaign runs about $50,000 for two to three months, she estimates. Ochman writes:


Building a site that incorporates interactivity, allows user-generated content, and perhaps also includes e-commerce doesn't come cheap from anyone who knows what they are doing. Even taking free software like WordPress and making it function as an effective interactive site, incorporating e-commerce, creating style sheets that integrate with the company's branding takes more than time. That takes skill, experience and money.


Sure, that pales in comparison to many other IT projects. But it's not insignificant. Ochman's high-level view is that companies should have realistic expectations of what Web 2.0 can do for them, and it would probably be wise to engage some outside specialists to help. I don't want to end on a discouraging note. Another "myth" she addresses is that social media marketing results cannot be measured. Not true, she writes, citing the statistics available from such sites as Google Trends, Google Analytics, BackType, Compete and Twitter search.