It’s time to get beyond the Web 2.0 windows dressing and truly change what your company is about if you want to succeed using these new approaches to communicating. Web 2.0 is not about having corporate accounts on Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter or any number of other social networks. It is however all about listening and committing to create a more interactive dialogue with prospects and customers. It’s also about changing how your company uses content and makes it accessible too.
I’m far from being any kind of social media expert, but if you hang out on Twitter, Facebook or any of these social networking applications you can see what does and doesn’t work.
And what prompted me to write this post is that the gulf is growing fast between companies who are really embracing Web 2.0 concepts of humility and listening versus those that blare their messages to the world. I’m offering up a few lessons learned on how to make your website and company to speak Web 2.0 as a result. Tim O’Reilly’s description of What is Web 2.0? is worth checking out as well.
Lesson 1: Your Website Needs To Tell It Like It Is
It is astounding how company websites are enmeshed in jargon-filled descriptions that really don’t say anything. Amplified over Web 2.0-based communications channels, they become even more garbled and unintelligible. David Meerman Scott has an excellent, must-read blog post on this subject, World-Class, Cutting-Edge Gobbledygook. Go read it now. It succinctly captures why so many companies struggle to get leads over their websites. No one can tell what they do! Mr. Scott offers up examples that defy explanation of just what business the company is in. As a result when these companies get their Facebook, Friendfeed, and Twitter accounts and start pushing their message to the world no one cares. Why? No one can tell what business they are in. Before jumping into the Web 2.0 pool make sure anyone can figure out just what business your company is in by looking at your website. A friend calls this the “mother in law” test.
Lesson 2: On Social Networks, Responsiveness is King, Follower Counts Aren’t
One of the aspects of social networks that make them so alluring to both companies and people is the real-time feedback of followers or friends. Lately on Twitter and in the blogosphere in general debates have raged on about follower counts connoting higher relevancy of one person over another, which is ridiculous.
One wonders if Albert Einstein was on Twitter with less than 100 followers would his genius have been discounted? It might have been. Just as follower counts are irrelevant to someone’s influence in the real world, so it is for companies as well. Don’t waste time worrying about your follower count. Worry about being responsive and getting customers’ problems solved. Worry about being honest and worthy of trust as a company. Worry about being real. And most of all worry about what you don’t know and what social networks can teach your company about how your customers are changing. Responsiveness truly is King, and figuring out where your customers are going is far more important than just looking at Web 2.0 technologies as the latest marketing communications channel.
Lesson 3: Your Company Needs To Have Skin In The Game
Realizing that opening up the communications channels with existing customers and potential future ones using blogs, Wikis, social networking sites including Friendfeed, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest will require your company to change too. Don’t sign up for all these social networking sites unless your company has a mandate for change already – because earning a reputation for responsiveness is so much more important than just using these new mediums for self-promotion. If the greatest and most positive aspects of social networking and Web 2.0 are going to lead to lasting change in your company, then get a mandate for change. The bottom line is that companies who are making social networking work have significant skin in the game and show their commitment to responsiveness by changing process, policies and procedures to better serve their customers and earn new ones.
Lesson 4: Social Networking Is For People Not Corporate Logos
The proliferation of faceless corporate accounts on many of these social networking sites is understandable yet is the essence of the gulf I’ve seen growing on Twitter for example emanates from this practice. Comparing the Twitter account @comcastcares who is Frank Eliason, Director of Digital Care for example versus any of the legions of companies who have accounts that are not staffed by anyone illustrates this point. If you set up a Twitter account in your company be sure to have a specific person or team of people mentioned, as Dell does. The bottom line is that social networking is about people connecting with each other, not with corporate logos. David Meerman Scott reflects on this development in his blog post Attention Marketers: Time to stop abusing Twitter.
Teaching your website and company to speak Web 2.0 is not all about rushing out to get corporate accounts on every social networking site you can find. It is about the following however:
- When in doubt keep the jargon and techno babble out of all Web copy. Simplify and tell it like it is, don’t obfuscate who or what your company is. Simplicity is the new black.
- Producing content on a regular basis is much more important than getting a given page perfect that will stand the test of time. Streamlining how content gets updated on your website is so much more important than getting a corporate account on yet another social networking site.
- Link like you mean it. Too often links on site go dead after re-designed and never get fixed, yet this is one of the most critical areas of serving others with content. Resolve to fix these links and get your entire site audited for navigation now.
- RSS feeds need to be in place before any site goes live. RSS readers are slowing replacing CNN.com, FoxNews.com and other traditional news sites as are social networks. Get your content entirely compatible with RSS so it can be quickly and globally shared.
Bottom line: Web 2.0 is all about service to your customers and others interested in your company’s expertise and knowledge. Serving with a genuine and transparent interest in enriching them and others is truly what matters. Don’t be deluded by follower counts and all the rest; it just will distract you and your company from what matters most: serving and enriching others and learning more yourself.