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February 24, 2008. What do Advertisers do about Web 2.0?

Dr. Augustine Fou

Web 2.0 has been described as “lots of video,” “cool user interfaces that use javascript,” “social networking,” “word of mouth,” or Google, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc. and countless other ways correctly or incorrectly. But what really IS the essence of this new wave of websites rising from the ashes of the first web implosion? And what are the implications for advertising and marketing.

Web 2.0 versus Web 1.0?

Web 1.0 was about the tools which made getting information online easier – HTML, website creation software, standards, internet connections, etc. This led to an explosion of information online to the estimated several hundred billion web pages online today. Web 2.0 is about organizing, filtering and prioritizing the vast amounts of information so it is more useful, timely, and relevant. Web 2.0 was born out of necessity in the current “age of too much information.” It also has profound implications for advertising since advertising messages are part of the clutter and people have accustomed themselves to tuning everything out until such time they are interested in researching something for themselves.

Modern users’ high expectations?

Web 2.0 sites, which include Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc. have collectively set extremely high expectations among users. These “modern users” are impatient – they want their information right now; they are intolerant – if a site disappoints or frustrates them, they won’t come back; and they are vocal – they tell their friends about good sites and about bad ones too. In their quest to cut through the clutter and find the information they want, they demand speed, collaboration, and trust.

Speed – Modern users are impatient and they want what they want as quickly and efficiently as possible. The simplicity and single-purposedness of tools like Google have conditioned these extreme expectations.

Collaboration – Modern users expect the collaborative effort of the community to help them filter and prioritize content – e.g. bubbling up the best videos to watch, recommending the best products to buy, etc. – so they don’t have to wade through the clutter themselves.

Trust – Modern users have highly sensitive “BS radars” and they tend to go back to sources of information (people or places) that have earned their trust over time. Information from a trusted source is so valuable to them because it saves them time in having to figure it out for themselves.

Implications for modern advertising and marketing?

The diverse sites of the web 2.0 landscape have set an extreme bar of expectations among modern users – i.e. consumers. This fact has profound implications for advertisers and marketers who are fighting for these consumers’ attention (to sell them something) in this “age of too much information;” advertisers must satisfy the three key dimensions of modern users’ high expectations:

Speed – Make information easy to find, persistent, and deliverable through whatever channel or device the user chooses to use when searching for information. In a world where consumers tune everything out until they go looking for something, a broad brand message, targeted based on segments or personas and delivered through “push channels” is just not good enough, fast enough, or useful enough for individual modern users.

Collaboration – Leverage the collective power and input of your most loyal customers (your power users or enthusiasts) to identify, filter, and prioritize the information for the “rest” of your customers or potential customers – this helps fulfill both the 1st and 3rd parameters of speed and trust and it may even yield specific messaging that works – i.e. how would they tell their friends about your “wiz-bang” product or service – use their words, not your own.

Trust – Use more “two-way” tactics such as digital/online than “one-way” tactics such as advertising to create truthful dialogs with customers. Sustained dialog and careful listening engenders the trust necessary for customers to reveal insights about what they value, how they buy, who they tell, etc. This has implications for not only marketing messages but also product innovation (e.g. new features, etc.) or even business innovation (e.g. new pricing strategy, etc.).

Notable Quotables

Chris Anderson – Users are seeking more specialized and less generic products – the “long tail” of retail – and they are going online in this quest. The beauty of this is that we can observe what they value, what excites them, and what they talk about.

Malcolm Gladwell – There are enough technologies, services, communities, and information online that we have passed an important tipping point in the age of information – the shift of power from advertisers to consumers. A single user post on Consumerist.com got amplified to the point that a telecommunications giant publicly announced the removal of an anti-customer clause in their terms and conditions.

Seth Godin – Consumers are empowered with information, technologies, services, and peers to tune out all “interruption media” until such time they want something; and, even then, they get their information not from traditional advertising and marketing messages, but rather from trusted sources who act as filters that help them cut through the “noise.”

Esther Dyson – Modern users are getting ever more cognizant and savvy about their personal information and who has access to it and how it is used. While traditional advertising pushed the boundaries of privacy in its quest for more information in order to do better targeting, trust and privacy are paramount to the modern user. In the next evolution of advertising, who will be able to achieve perfect targeting (to the level of the individual) while respecting and protecting that individual’s privacy?

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2008, Dr. Augustine Fou

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