Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Digital Outposts—A Framework for Web 2.0 Marketing

Until recently, many people viewed the Web as an expandable but somewhat one-dimensional space filled with millions of websites. The advent of Web 2.0 turned this idea on its head and, in the process, left many people scratching their heads. For those of you who may lack a framework for envisioning the world of Web 2.0, here’s an explanation that you may find useful:

Web 2.0 is expanding the cyber-universe like the Big Bang and in many ways operates like another dimension of the Web 1.0 world with which we have become familiar.

Web 1.0 tends to be a one-way world. The websites of organizations and individuals are primarily promotional planets—they tell the story from their point of view in one direction, which is out. Interaction between that world and its visitors tend to be monitored and screened before they are allowed to be “posted” on the planet, offering little in the way of opinion differing from that of the planet’s leadership.

On the other hand, while much is made of the interactivity and broadstream technologies of Web 2.0: blogs, wikis, videocasts, RSS feeds, webinars, and more, the real story of this vast new web world for marketers is in the way that they can now venture beyond the confines of their own “website/planet” into the vastness of cyberspace. Anyone can easily transport their thoughts and ideas to an expanding list of digital outposts. If you think of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and any other place where you and/or your company can establish a profile to be viewed and linked to by others as a space station of sorts, you’ve got the idea.

From that digital outpost, you can travel further and further into cyberspace, and back again, via a network of connections (hypertext, RSS and other) that move your cyber-self into view for millions of others traveling to and from these digital realms. You can invite people back to your home planet (website) or you can continue to exist out in cyberspace via your profiles, posts, and wiki contributions.

Web 2.0: The final frontier (or, at least, the next frontier)

For savvy marketers, the Big Bang of social media and the expansion it’s causing in our universe is an opportunity but, just as traveling to distant worlds requires all sorts of customized life support equipment, venturing into social media systems requires some consideration of how you (and your company) will interact with and be viewed by the denizens of that environment.

Rather than jumping to post a profile that may be viewed by the inhabitants of Facebook as “not of their world,” spend some time exploring the environment so that you can draw the other residents “in” and not make your outpost a place they rope off as an unfriendly alien invasion. More often than not, you’ll find the environment conducive to networking and building your brand, provided you operate in a manner consistent with the rules its early settlers have established.

With SMO (social media optimization) a hot topic in our industry, DBE is helping our clients explore these new worlds and develop strategies that work to protect, fortify, and build their brands in relation to the search engines and how those worlds connect to the people living out in Web 2.0. It’s one small step for online marketing, but a giant leap for brand recognition and product sales.

And for More Info to Help You Think About Web 2.0:

For a great overview of Web 2.0 tools, see this article, written by Charles B. Kreitzberg of Cognetics for the July 18, 2007 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. Cognetics is an alliance partner of DBE, providing expert-driven usability recommendations for websites and other interactive media.

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