Web 2.0 - what is it and how much does it matter for a BtoB site?
The term “Web 2.0” has been around long enough now that many people consider it an empty cliché or a bandwagon, or both – and some are already talking about “Web 3.0.” Among the 66 million Google citations, references to Web 2.0 go back as far as 2004.
So Web 2.0 is nothing new. But despite its popularity, there are as many definitions of what Web 2.0 actually is, as there are search engine listings for it! For some, Web 2.0 means the entire worldwide web is becoming a vast new computing platform; for others it means websites that behave more like desktop applications; for others, Web 2.0 is synonymous with social networking: blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like.
And for many others, Web 2.0 is a catchall term for, y’know, those cool sites like Flikr and Twitter and YouTube ’n’ stuff…
The blind men
describe an elephant
It turns out that none of these definitions are right, yet all of them are. If we “mash up” the conflicting opinions, we find that Web 2.0 sites distinguish themselves from those retroactively labeled Web 1.0 in three key ways:
- 2.0 sites look and behave more like desktop applications. They often have a certain graphical “look” about them (more on this later). And they respond faster, and in a “richer” way, instead of just displaying another page of content from the server when a link is clicked.
- Whereas 1.0 sites are silos of information made available to visitors, in 2.0 sites, the visitors themselves are contributors to the site content. And 2.0 sites often share their content and capabilities with other sites, allowing new hybrids of maps, feeds and content to be created.
- 2.0 sites typically incorporate a mix of “cool” new technologies to deliver these new functionalities – RSS feeds, tagging, sharing, podcasts, video and Ajax, to name a few.
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What can “2” do
Coolness aside, as a business-to-business marketer, you may be asking yourself how relevant Web 2.0 is to your site? The 2.0 sites that spring to mind first are mostly BtoC. But we believe BtoB can benefit, too.
There’s certainly no need to overhaul your site immediately; with today’s marketing budgets, gradual change is a more realistic approach. The good news is that Web 2.0 technologies can be implemented incrementally and inexpensively. Adding just a few can move you beyond brochureware, and help deliver a user experience that’s more engaging, personal, memorable, and compelling – in short, all the things you want your BtoB site to be.
13 ways to “Go
So, in no particular order, here’s a baker’s dozen of 2.0 tools, techniques and tricks worth considering.
- Feed them. An RSS feed lets visitors subscribe to sections of your site that change frequently, such as news and events. That way, they’ll be notified when you update your site, which will encourage them to visit again. (For an example, click the orange icon on Arketi’s "In the News" page.)
- Apply some Ajax. Combine multiple pages of related content into a single page – such as a product description, technical specs, and screenshots – then let the visitor click “tabs” to hide and reveal the different sections instantly. (See this in action at erdas.com.)
- Banish popups. More Ajax magic replaces slow, annoying popup windows with instant screen overlays. Ideal for showing multiple images – and great for forms too. (See how we used it for Hospitality Ventures – click “View more photos.”)
- Keep it fresh. It was true for Web 1.0 and it’s twice as true for 2.0: there’s no substitute for well-crafted content that’s relevant and recent. Weekly updates should be a minimum. Yes, weekly. (Need help generating content? Let the visitors help – see the next two tips.)
- Invite feedback. Engage visitors by making them contributors. This can be as simple as a comment box at the foot of the page (common on blogs like Arketi’s BtoB Marketing News), to tips and tricks contributed by users of your product, to full-blown feature articles written by customers.
- Let users spread the word. Bookmark-sharing sites like Digg and Delicious allow visitors to tell others to visit your pages – a great way to stimulate traffic and build your thought leadership creds. Many journalists trawl these sites for stories and article ideas, too. (See the icons in the sidebars on Arketi’s "In the News" pages.)
- Blog it. A blog fulfills multiple 2.0 objectives: fresh content, visitor involvement, RSS feed... best of all, it's really easy to start. But don’t forget, a blog is only valuable if you keep it updated – the once-a-week rule applies here, too. (Check out Cisco’s blog to see the frequency of their posts.)
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- Pod it. The blog’s audio brother, the podcast is another simple way to serve up content that’s accessible and subscribable. And it’s easier than you might think – desktop-quality recording is fine, provided your content is worthwhile. (Hear what we’re talking about on Arketi’s BtoB Marketing Minute podcast.)
- Video it. Sure it takes a little planning, a little scripting, and a little editing, but here too, things don’t need to look too polished. Upload to YouTube, point-and-click to build a custom player, copy to your webpage... YourCompanyTV is on the air! (Or use existing video – with permission – as at AAA Making America Stronger)
- Nip/tuck. There’s something about “that Web 2.0 look” – white space, clear colors, large fonts – that’s almost simplistic. We don’t suggest jumping on every latest design trend bandwagon, but a facelift can work wonders to freshen a tired site. (See the results of some recent makeovers at reveillesoftware.com, maxrecall.com and metasysinc.net.)
- This is personal. Not everyone wants the same information from your site. Allow users to customize their view and choose the way they use it – particularly valuable on pages where content from multiple sources is aggregated. (Knowledge Infusion’s Center of Excellence is a great example.)
- Contextual clues. Especially on technology sites where some visitors may not be technical, contextual explanations can be helpful. An icon or dotted underline hints that a popup definition will appear when you mouse-over the word, like this: HTML. (You may need to view this example in a browser as not all email clients support it.). A more elaborate version can be created using the Snapshots tool.
- Let them play. Used judiciously, Flash is a great tool to engage and explain complex concepts. Product diagrams are less intimidating and more fun to explore when your mouse is driving. (See what we mean on these pages from Racemi and Flo Healthcare.)
With all the extra traffic your Web 2.0 site will be getting, you’ll need some way to keep track of it all. Good thing marketing automation solutions are the subject of an upcoming issue. Stay tuned!