Can Business Make Friends with Web 2.0?

Loraine Lawson

I'm reading "Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message," by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. Its copyright is 2007, but many of the examples are circa 2005, so it's a bit dated, at least for the Internet.

It's basically about how people are using technology - primarily 2.0 technologies - to become a marketing force and what this means for businesses. What's really interesting to me is that many of the stories serve as a morality tale for marketers, public relations people and publicly traded companies who are inclined to ignore the business impact that bloggers and social networking sites can have on their business.

Of course, by now that's old news. But it got me thinking: Maybe the reason companies aren't rushing to embrace 2.0 technologies isn't because the technology is new and unfamiliar. Maybe the problem is just the opposite - business leaders have seen what happens when Web 2.0 users target their business and they aren't happy with the results.

Thus far, the intersection of business and Web 2.0 generally has not been pretty. Consider StarbucksGossip, a hobbyist site that quickly became the place for Starbucks employees to publicly and anonymously air corporate grievances. And then there was the public relations nightmare AOL faced when blogger Vincent Ferrari recorded his frustrating interactions with an AOL customer service representative while trying to cancel his AOL account. He posted the encounter to his blog, where it quickly became viral, much to AOL's chagrin.

There are good stories, but by and large, the book is full of accounts of Web 2.0 technologies used to exact vengeance on unresponsive corporations.

No wonder companies hesitate to invest in Web or even Enterprise 2.0. You just can't be sure what will happen because you can't control the message. And if you do try to control the message, you're likely to face a very public blogger backlash.

It does seem inevitable that there's risk involved with 2.0 technologies, but everything worth doing involves risk. You can sit back and hope no one complains - or you can use 2.0 technologies as a means of tapping fresh ideas and solving problems before they result in lost business.

Here are some resources I've stumbled across recently that might help:

  • Last week, the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco looked at this and other challenges to business adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. This article from internetnews.com shares conference highlights, including how an associate at Morgan Stanley struggled to convince the conservative financial services company that it could benefit from 2.0 technologies.
  • The internetnews.com article mentioned Meet Charlie: What is Enterprise 2.0 - a clever slideshow that shows all the ways 2.0 technologies can help Charlie, his boss and coworkers do their jobs. I checked it out: It's quick, easy-to-use and really does a nice job of identifying a range of 2.0 possibilities for the enterprise.
  • It may be that Web 2.0 is most useful when it's used for very large, distributed organizations - like the military. This PCWorld.com article looks at how the military is using a Web 2.0 site - Troopideas.com - to help troops share and solve problems. A good part of the article also talks about how SOA and mash-ups are used to quickly build Web applications that address technology-related problems mentioned on the site.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 12, 2007 8:32 AM adampark adampark  says:
Dear Loraine,Thanks for the well-rounded summary of what's eating business when they face things that are tagged with the "2.0" version name.It's quite natural for businesses to be wary of something out of control, but isn't that how most things real and meaningful present themselves to us? I mean, if you can predict what will come out of your PR, you're not getting that creative.When "people are the message," then we can learn from the ants. It's called swarm intelligence and order emerges from the interaction of simple rules, like leaving your pheromone on the trail and following the stronger pherome tracks. That's how the ants are able to find the shortest route to a new source of food, for example.As a business executive, if you can't control the message, then you have got to get on with the flow. Blend in and see where the emerging message is leading you to. And most of all, be a great and caring company for your customers! That way, at least, you don't have to worry about your customers noticing the fabled "broken window" of your business.Regards,Adam Reply
Sep 20, 2007 3:43 PM kuzjaa kuzjaa  says:
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