Don’t Let Web 2.0 Ruin Your Online Marketing was by far my favorite Web Content 2008 session yesterday. Robert Rose, VP of Marketing & Strategy at CrownPeak, set the tone for the talk when he started with “Web 2.0 is kinda hyped up.” Using the anecdote of an airport in Maryland that spent $60 million over 10 years to build a 1600ft runway because it got caught up in the hype cycle of regional airlines, Robert clearly made his point – one that he reiterated throughout the presentation: Companies do NOT have to deploy Web 2.0 technology if it doesn’t make sense for their business. If Web 2.0 is not in line with your business strategy, you should not be using it. You should not let your business senses be affected by the hype cycle of Web 2.0. Key point #1: The consumerization of IT Today, technology is easy. It takes seconds to create a blog or subscribe to an RSS feed. People are also becoming increasingly tech-savvy. As a result, when technology is easy and actually works, it becomes invisible. Instead, what comes to the forefront is content. So unless a company derives any competitive advantage from proprietary technology, it needs to stop building custom-coded technology that doesn’t add any business value, and start focusing on content. Producing tons of good content is, in fact, the #1 SEO strategy. The content needs to be accurate, constant, new, and should facilitate conversation. In fact, looking ahead, Robert talked about how Web 3.0 is going to be all about content -- like the hypersyndication phenomenon Dick Costolo talked about earlier. In order to survive, your content needs to be ubiquitous. It should be separate from its form of presentation and available on any device. Appropriate content should be integrated into other interfaces, and should help build relationships with your core community. Key point #2: Web 2.0 is “just a conversation.” The way a company interacts with its customers defines how it uses Web 2.0. Only after deciding that you want to have a conversation should you then look at the Web 2.0 technology to see how to facilitate that conversation. The moment of enlightenment comes when a company figures out where to interact with its customers. A couple simple things that a company can explore and test are: publish and ask for feedback, publish and let users rate it, or roundtrip the user content through your CMS. Disagreeing with an earlier speaker, Robert felt that the process of how a company interacts with its customers is what the brand is – not what Google says it is. He believed that companies need to start interacting with audiences in a way that will lead to a trust in the company’s authenticity. Because technology is becoming easy, people are demanding deeper conversations with companies. This consumerization of IT has resulted in a need for trust and authenticity. Robert’s practical advice for companies was that before employing Web 2.0, two things need to be in place: * “Get your house in order,” have processes in place to test and experiment * Commitment at all levels I’m still wrapping my head around everything that Robert talked about and the interesting conversation that followed. Unlike those who are so wrapped up in Web 2.0 and wave its flag high or those who refuse to get involved in Web 2.0 and simply dismiss it, Robert is someone who is in the know but not a diehard zealot. He has both feet planted on the ground, realizing that Web 2.0 is not for every company. Judging by the responses from the audience, I’m sure his message resonated with many from industries still trying to figure Web 2.0 out.