Web 2.0 and controlling the customer conversation

Gerry McGovern has produced another practical piece on the evolution of the Web for business. He writes, “Web 2.0 and social media mean that for teachers a declining part of their job involves telling. An increasing part is listening to the class and facilitating them in having conversations. Teachers should help moderate these conversations and draw new learnings from them. They need to say less of: ‘let’s open up a book.’ and more of: ‘let’s open up a conversation.’.

“The traditional manager is taught to command and control. Web 2.0 challenges that model…. Companies are not democracies, of course. And social media will deliver little value if it becomes some giant water cooler conversation because not all the best ideas are discovered at the water cooler. Huge quantities of absolute rubbish are talked there too. So, social media and Web 2.0 are not a replacement for management decision making, but rather a support to make better, more-informed decisions.

“The naïve tool-centric view of Web 2.0 still exists. ‘Just give them the blog and the wiki software and get out of the way’ has very limited logic. But it is classic IT-thinking. As if the tool was the be all and end all, and the only purpose of life was to discover the right one. As if it was the type of quill that Shakespeare chose that made him the writer that he was.”

“So Web 2.0 and social media still need management…. But the managers are not the only clever people in the room anymore. The room is much bigger and it is speckled with cleverness. To manage in the Web 2.0 world is to converse, to listen, to be honest and upfront, to collaborate, to moderate, and constantly watch out for the trends and patterns that always emerge when many minds mingle and mix in the network.”

The message needs to sink in that companies need to start giving up some control over the conversation with their customers. I know this is very hard to hear, and even harder to do, but it is happening whether comanies like it or not. Those that continue to keep a stranglehold on the conversation will eventually find that no one is listening…

If not king, at least prince

“Don’t just take what you’re doing offline and move it online in the hope that being there will somehow make people stand up and cheer.” – Charles Rubin

The phrase “content is king” may seem hackneyed, but over the past few years finding, reading and interacting with content has become the dominant reason people spend time online, overtaking communication and well ahead of commerce and search (according to the Online Publishers Association Internet Activities Index, conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings).

With the rise of social networking, creating content and interacting with it has become a critical part of the online experience for your customers. All businesses need to address this issue in order to create and develop healthy relationships. You need to speak the same language as your customers. You need to ask yourself:

• What message do I want to get across?
• What interactions am I trying to make?
• What conversations do I want to have with my customers?
• Where do my customers want to go – and how can I come alongside them for the journey?

Australian companies are starting to get the message, putting more effort into creating content specifically for their website rather than shoe-horning existing brochure or advertising material into their web pages. Even the newspaper sites are creating web-only content, acknowledging the importance of the online component of their business. I will be writing more about these companies over time, highlighting who I think is getting it right (and wrong) online. Stay tuned…