Using New Media and Web Analysis Tools

By Gregory Smyth

While it is not actually a new technology, in many ways Web 2.0 has created a new internet. That new internet is not only changing the way we purchase products (on eBay, Etsy, etc), socialize (as at MySpace, facebook), and create value for ideas (in Digg and StumbleUpon), it is changing the way companies do business. One major success story in the use of Web 2.0 as a business enhancer, for internet marketing, credibility, new product ideas and support/customer service, is Dell. Dell is interacting with its customers in a way, and at a level, that few businesses are. Dell employees monitor the entire web for company mentions in forums and facebook groups, chiming in were appropriate. Dell's Ideastorm platform has yielded plenty of ideas that have been incorporated into the new notebooks. And more technical support than ever is now actually delivered by other Dell users, rather than the company itself. We have a look at how Web 2.0 is changing the face of some particular businesses, and the commercial world in general.

Web 2.0 concepts are difficult to pin down. A large part of Web 2.0 is user generated content - no longer is the internet only for site publishers. Sites like MySpace, Digg, eBay and Youtube are examples of this. The term was originally coined to mean that dotcom businesses were finding favor again, after the bubble burst in 2001. An increasing number of businesses exist only online, with no physical presence to speak of other than server space, and this is another facet of Web 2.0. New internet marketing strategies like article marketing, press release syndication, and SEO marketing are also Web 2.0 phenomena. In the context of Dell, though, Web 2.0 refers to the forums, social networking, and user-interactive features of the web that are exploding in usage.

Dell now has a staff of 42, employed specifically to engage with Twitter, facebook and other social media groups, and help with Dell-related problems as well as subtly promoting the brand. The team has learnt that just 1% of a customer's time on the web is spent buying products, and 99% is spent researching. A good quality website and even great Search Engine Optimization services aren't worth much if forums, groups and other users say that the product it sells is worthless. It seems that Web 2.0 has moved beyond a time-killer for bored teens, and into the realms of useful business tools.

Dell is not the only company realizing the value of Web 2.0 as a longer-term customer relations tool, staff source and internet marketing strategy. Ernst and Young, as well as Dell, are now using facebook as a recruitment tool, and Ernst and Young's career page now has 17,500 'fans' on the site. Blueshirtnation is another example of business that exists completely online - this forum garners insight into front-line employee's knowledge, with users helping each other work towards finding ideal product interactions. Turbotax Live is a great example of the use of Web 2.0 as a customer support and interaction tool. The bonus of offering support in forum environments like these is that the burden is often lifted from employees, with other users answering many simple queries.

Building a web marketing strategy and increasing search engine rankings is only a part of creating a successful business using the web. The old-fashioned ideals of customer service and listening to feedback are more important than ever - it is just the methods that have changed.