As new Internet technologies break into the mainstream, our perceptions about who's in charge have shifted so dramatically the old rules no longer apply. Because these technologies—currently lumped under the banner of "Web 2.0"—have given consumers much more control over content, they are forcing corporations and marketing specialists to adapt. The 4th annual Internet Strategy Forum Summit had one mission: show them how.
The theme of this year's informative and lively event was "Web 2.0: Social Strategies." On July 19, the 325 attendees that gathered at the Portland Governor Hotel included marketing executives, IT professionals and Internet strategists. Most didn't come to learn about RSS feeds, blogs, Twitter, Wikis, Mashups, or Ajax—those ideas were not new to them. They came to hear top executives and technologists from Yahoo! Inc., CNET Networks, IBM, FedEx, Intel, WebTrends, One Economy, and Allyis, among others, share their insights on how to embrace the changes and engage consumers by integrating Web 2.0 technologies into their overall business strategies.
While the concept of Web 2.0 is not simple to define, it's most frequently described as follows:
"...a perceived second-generation of web-based communities and hosted services - such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies— which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users."
The consensus among the Summit presenters was that building platforms for more open user participation has lowered the technical barriers and invited consumers to be co-creators of content. It's given new meaning to Alvin Toffler's term "prosumer," a contraction of "producer" and "consumer." More to the point, with consumers exercising more control, the days of one-way corporate message push are over.
As Mike Moran, Distinguished IBM Engineer and author noted, "Successful marketing now means conversation." And as the number of participants joining the conversation grows, so grows the need to incorporate applications that improve the customer experience.
In the morning keynote address, Cammie Dunaway, Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo! Inc. described the value of integrating community and creativity by using campaigns that encourage consumers to submit ideas. "When they're engaged and have ownership," she noted, "they want to share their experiences and in the process, effectively do the marketing for you." Dunaway pointed out the importance of making your message entertaining and implementing tools that capture the user's needs and interests in order to target relevant ads and services.
Robert Scoble, Vice President, Media Development, PodTech.net, Fast Company columnist, and an A-Lister among bloggers, demonstrated how news about your company can virally spread across the globe through blogs and specific technology like RSS. Because of the dynamic blogosphere chatter and the network of permalinks, Scoble urges companies to use Google Blog Search to learn what's being said about them and then be prepared to respond.
WebTrends CMO, Tim Kopp, discussed the importance of following trends emerging from Web 2.0, the mash-up between technology, finance, and marketing, and how measuring the engagement levels of visitors to your Website is critical to strengthening your dialog with them. By understanding trends in usage, you can turn customer insight into a strategic advantage.
Back by popular demand, was Rey Ramsey, Founder & CEO One Economy, reminding us that Web 2.0 is about more than commerce. With a mission to bring technology to the most underserved around the world, he was also responsible for having facilitated a social web media event in June-an Internet forum featuring among others, presidential hopefuls Clinton and Romney. The live Webcast from New Orleans allowed virtual attendees to ask questions on topics that included poverty in America. Using Web 2.0 technology in the near future, plans are underway to build a Public Internet Channel, a large portal and civic space where citizens can participate in national political discussions.
In the closing presentation, Erik Kokkonen, Vice President, Global Publishing Services, CNET Networks summed up the social networking, consumer empowering aspects of the new technology by quoting Tim O'Reilly, the man who originally coined the term Web 2.0. "The world of Web 2.0 is also the world of what Dan Gillmor calls 'we, the media,' a world in which 'the former audience,' not a few people in the back room, decide what's important."
Today's most successful companies and marketing strategists are those who have learned how to incorporate Web 2.0 into their business models. They're the ones who understand and welcome the fact that consumers now have the power to declare (to paraphrase an infamous quote), "We're the deciders!"
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