Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Web 2.0 Primer

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Twitter, MySpace and Facebook Demystified
by Ted Janusz

Q: I hear people talking about Websites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. All the kids seem to be using them. What are they? And, even more importantly, should I be using them to market my business?

Tools like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are components of something else you may have heard people talking about: Web 2.0, which is a popular term for Internet applications for which the users are actively engaged in creating and distributing Web content.

Web 1.0 probably consisted of the Web sites you saw back in the late 90s, which were nothing more than fancy electronic brochures. Web 1.5 would have been something like Amazon or eBay, sites on which you can buy, sell and leave reviews. What Web 3.0 will look like is anybody's guess!

Let's look specifically at the three applications that you mentioned.

Twitter - "Twitter is like text messaging, only you can also do it from the Web," says Dan Tynan, the author of the Tynan on Technology blog. "Instead of sending a message to just one person, you can send it to thousands of people at once. You can choose to follow anyone's update (called "tweets") simply by clicking the Follow button on their profile, or vice-versa. The only rule is that each tweet can be no longer than 140 characters."

This is fine, but what is the business application of Twitter?

In the past, companies would need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing research to find out what consumers were saying about them. Now companies like Comcast, Dell, HR Block, Kodak, Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods can "follow" what real customers are saying about them in real time. And they can answer questions and resolve complaints from real customers immediately, if they so choose.

The number one Web site in both the United States and the world is Yahoo. But in the U.S., the second most visited site is MySpace.

MySpace - Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe designed a Web site to provide a service at no charge to regular people looking for a way to connect with others having similar likes and dislikes. The site was initially popular with bands, who didn't want to go through the hassle of creating and maintaining a Web site, but sought a way to distribute their music, photographs, videos and other information to their fans and would-be fans. MySpace usage has since spread like wildfire to people of all interests and ages.

Yes, MySpace initially appealed to teenagers, but now half of the visitors to the site are age 35 or older as the site's demographic composition continues to shift.

What is the business application of MySpace?

Successful marketing using any of the Web 2.0 applications means an ad cannot look like an ad or else it will be rejected immediately by the social networking visitors.

To see how companies have successfully launched a presence on MySpace, check out Cartier International (www.myspace.com/lovebycartier) or Miss Helga, a spokesperson for Volkswagen (www.myspace.com/misshelga).

While MySpace is the number two Website in the United States, Facebook is the number two Website in the rest of the world and is rapidly closing in on MySpace in the US.

Facebook was originally created by Mark Zuckerman, intended for use by his fellow students of Harvard University as "The Facebook." It was meant to be an online replacement of the book one receives as freshmen when entering college or university containing photos and other information about our new freshman classmates. Within 30 days, about half of the students of Harvard had a profile on the site. Facebook soon spread to other Boston area colleges. Presently, approximately 85 percent of all college students have a presence on Facebook.

Facebook has been able to overtake MySpace as the number one social networking site in the world because it no longer has the stigma that it is "just for high school or college students." Anyone may now join Facebook.

Sites like MySpace and Facebook are so popular because social networking allows so much more than e-mail or text messaging. In addition to writing on someone else's "wall" on Facebook, sharing photographs and videos. Facebook is the number one photo-sharing site on the Internet. At a glance, you can see what all of your "friends" are up to. And because you choose your friends on Facebook, you can virtually eliminate spam, spam composes up to 90% of all e-mail.

What is the business application of Facebook?

People have a "profile" on Facebook, whereas a business has a "page." You and I can have "friends" on Facebook, while a business has "fans." Businesses on Facebook can really benefit from on Facebook is: the trusted referrals of their friends, which is something missing from the monologue of advertising.

There is a danger for businesses to view the social networking sites as the new television, but a business can advertise on them for free.

"If you are going to go there, you had better go for the right reasons," says Seth Godin, author of the best-selling book on marketing, Purple Cow. "And if your reason is to sell more stuff, please don't bother. It's not going to work. People don't care about you. They just don't.

On the other hand, if you can use social networking sites as ways to connect to real people, just for that sake alone, not because you want to sell anything, then it's a great way to spend a half hour a day."

Godin concludes, "And what we are finding, as a by-product of that . . . yes, in fact, your business will do better, because you are a trusted member of the community. Not because you are trying to sell stuff."

Ted Janusz is a professional speaker, author and entrepreneur, who presents "Web 2.0 - How to Harness the Power of Social Networking to Promote Your Business." Janusz has been invited to appear on the Geraldo show on FOX News Network.

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