Inherit the Web: Expand reach and brand awareness via Web 2.0

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Last year?s second annual Web 2.0 conference generated a great deal of buzz, particularly among marketers. Web 2.0 refers to the ongoing evolution of the World Wide Web from an infinite number of individual, unrelated Web sites to a full-fledged computing environment. The annual conference focuses on emerging business and technology developments that use the Web as a platform and defines how the Web will drive business in the future.

Most of the comments about last year?s conference were positive, but one disturbing fact came up repeatedly: the glaring lack of minority representation on the panels and in the audience.

If you are in business and want to stay in business, you must familiarize yourself with Internet developments that are shaping the way business is done. It is important, for example, to look at how Web 2.0 technologies like blogging and podcasting wikis (collaboration software) can be used to form a viable strategy for business expansion and brand awareness. Really simple syndication (RSS), application programming interfaces (APIs), Web services and? ?mashups? are examples of Web 2.0 technologies that are changing the face of the Web from a business perspective.

RSS. RSS is the driving force behind the blog explosion?45,000 blogs are created daily?and the reason why businesses of all sizes are forging new marketing strategies to reach prospects and customers. RSS makes it painless for anyone to distribute their content and for those interested in that content to consume it. Unlike recipients of spam and e-mail, RSS end users control what they receive. RSS news aggregators (many of them are free) make it easy to search for feeds, subscribe to those of interest, then deliver the information to the desktop. E-mail is still king, but RSS may contend for the throne in years to come.

APIs, Web Services, Mashups. APIs and Web services are tools created by Microsoft and other software vendors that allow programmers to build programs that work with their own software. Many people do not consider Google, Yahoo! and Ebay to be software companies, but for years they have created APIs and Web services that allow businesses to include data and tools, such as Google?s search functionality, in their Web sites. Web sites increasingly are opening access to their data and services in this fashion, leading us to the phenomenon known as ?mashups??Web applications built with APIs and Web services from multiple providers. A good example of? ?mashup? is the site CellPhoneReception.com, which leverages a database of 117,000 cell phone tower locations and Google Maps to help you see where coverage is and isn?t. The key here is that companies are using these tools to create more compelling and functional Web sites.

A study, published in July, of 3,900 business-to-business (B2B) technology buyers shows these buyers are using blogging, podcasting, wikis, RSS and other ?emerging media? technologies to obtain information they can use in determining which products and services to buy. The study, titled? ?The Influence of Podcasts on B2B Technology Purchase Decisions,? was conducted by Know-ledgestorm Inc., an Internet search resource for technology solutions, and media service specialists Universal McCann. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they had downloaded or listened to a podcast at least once, with 41 percent claiming to have listened to podcasts on more than one occasion; 65 percent said they listen to podcasts for both personal and business interests; 60 percent said information about business or technology that is currently delivered as white papers or analyst reports would be more interesting as podcasts and 55 percent of those said they would be more likely to consume white papers if they were delivered in this manner; 27 percent said podcasts already influence work-related purchase decisions.

Considering that we?re still in the early adoption stages for podcasting, these statistics suggest just how big an impact podcasting and the other new marketing technologies will have in the not-too-distant future. The so-called digital divide could grow exponentially if minority businesses do not inherit the Web and play a substantial role in shaping its future.

The third annual Web 2.0 conference will be held Nov. 7-9 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. More information can be found at www.web2con.com.? ???

Brent Leary is a partner in CRM Essentials, a customer relationship management consulting/advisory firm. Leary?s weblog can be found at www.brentleary.com.