Is Your Marketing Department Confused about Web2.0? Read This

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by: John Caddell

The one nearly universal feeling of companies dealing with the changes that web2.0 has made to marketing is utter bewilderment. I participated in a project to assess corporate blogs last year and I wouldn’t give any company I looked at better than a “C.” In fact, most of them would get incompletes: they had no blogs at all.

Never mind wikis, Facebook, Second Life, YouTube, Twitter, Digg, etc., etc.

So it’s very timely that Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research have written “Groundswell,” a book that illuminates what web2.0 means to everyday businesses. In straightforward language, and buttressed by primary research into how various groups participate in web2.0, Li and Bernoff define the most important web2.0 technologies, show how consumers use them, and lay out how companies can encourage and participate in the conversations about themselves and their products.

At the outset, Li and Bernoff define six overlapping types of web2.0 users & nonusers (creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, inactives) and show their representation in various segments. For example, Democrats have more web2.0 users across the board than Republicans. Japanese Fujitsu PC owners are far more likely to be collectors (e.g., content taggers or subscribers to RSS feeds) than NEC’s PC customers.

Through these examples, the authors crisply demonstrate that companies need to understand the web2.0 profiles of their customers, so as to understand, ultimately, how to engage them in productive conversation.

Case studies appear throughout the book, both success stories (Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” videos) and failures (the short-lived blog of Unica’s Chief Marketing Officer). To satisfy old-line executives (especially CFOs), they include pro forma business cases for several web2.0 projects—including laying out the upfront and ongoing costs of these initiatives.

Over and over, Li and Bernoff emphasize the need, when using these technologies, to listen, and not to shout. To be transparent, and to be authentic. Whether this is possible with traditional companies, in which desiring to control the message is deeply ingrained, remains to be seen.


Examples of web2.0 user types defined in “Groundswell”:
Creators – blog writers, amateur YouTube videographers
Critics – blog commenters, Amazon product reviewers
Collectors – taggers
Joiners – myspace and Facebook users
Spectators – blog readers, forum readers

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