Monday, February 12, 2007

The digital Generation of Web 2.0 Marketing

I have been in marketing for the past 10 years focusing on consumer web and user generation and online communities, built an ecommerce site and transitioned a business from consumer to enterprise successfully. Its an ever changing fun landscape.

In 1996, when we knew everyone on the web, we went to newsgroups to let people know about a new site (my first was a RSS reader like site offering subscription for users to get feeds of select publications as they were being updating on the web), or we requested links from directories like Yahoo and mutual links from friends.

Then came the banner ads and link exchanges. I've learned the hard way that effective user generation was built on real passion for users and listening to them even when they say what you don't want to hear.

During 99, when I built my own Startup Coola, we got 1 million Palm users by old fashioned viral play among Palm user groups.

Somewhere down the line, Internet marketing became a bad word and consumer marketing was even less cooler as huge tools evolved to track user click-throughs and the path the user took in navigating sites. Google IPOed and SEOs went on a mad gold rush to generate eyeballs.

Now with the cliched web 2.0, a new combination of trends in technology offering clean usabilities and change in social behavior bringing us together to communicate, connect and build collective intelligence, has web marketing really changed?

I am a big believer of David Weinberger's Clue Train Manifesto which predicted that users will bring their social behaviors of looking for referrals and sharing good and bad reviews and biases from real life onto the web and change the fundamentals of business. It just got easier with Web 2.0 tools and techniques today.

The fundamentals of marketing are always the same - knowing who is your customer and finding what they want and communicating with them to generate revenues or whatever your metrics.

I am curious to hear your comments on the difference for internet marketers and whether you experience the digital generational divide as a marketer.

1. There is a digital generation of old-type marketers and new Web 2.0 marketers. Its obvious in job reqs asking for one or the other. However, what it means or how its valued depends on the startup founders and their interpretation of both. I see a lot of optimism and new thinking in the younger marketers who did not see the web world crash. I also see fear in those who carry too much of the past.

2. I was lucky to make the transition to the new web as I took a break after my last startup Coola, end 2002 and came back with new fervor to learn the new blogoshere just to connect back with new projects. There are a set of media folks, investors and entrepreneurs who have made the transition successfully.

3. Tactically what is the difference in marketing in Web 2.0 world?

Real marketing is about messaging the passion for a product (or service) and communicating it to customers (meaning you know who they really are) and successful marketers do it will clear metric driven campaigns and a love for speed to iterate and learn from the market.

Web 2.0 world makes it every juicier to make it happen because all components of marketing has changed:

A. Product - An online product is always about the core tech offering, related tools that help the user, some specific for the type of business, many generic, and most importantly the content that provides the context for the user to consumer the product and make decisions to evaluate , decide for or against a product, check feedback of fellow users and engage or disengage from the rest of the community of users, irrespective of whether the community is facilitated by the site or not.

Web 2.0 is all about harnessing the collective intelligence of the users and that part has to be built into the product by simple tools like ranking, feedback systems and self-propelling community tools.

I remember Content vs Commerce arguments in Harcourt as I built out for $2 education publisher, a brick and mortor business transitioning to the web in 1999.

Now Content created by the community has become a larger component, how does this affect product development today?

B. Messaging/Outbound Marketing:

Print vs long tail of the web has become clearly differentiated. There are new set of influencers like Mike Arrington, Om and Robert Scoble for the new world, who will bring the young tech crowd. This is good for market validation and market acceptance. But to fundamentally build a business with real customers, it goes back to good old segmentation and reaching the core set of users.

Here I find companies targeting traditional customers, say an ecommerce site will benefit better from real print world PR from NY Times etc.

Of course, the tools have exploded and even Walter Mosberg publishes videos addons to his articles, so we have become a more visual society and marketing tools to help in that are yet to evolve.

C. Overlap:
I find that the product management cycle and messaging are more mixed up than before. This is because customers are talking everywhere, which seems like community and messaging, but thats changing the dynamics of products and the marketer has to be aware and be in all places.
For eg, thermaware offers a heatpad for pain relief that works differently from standard products by producing heat slowly by oxidation. When you look for them on the web, you'll find dicussion groups talking about using thermaware not for pain relief but for storing mattresses because it takes oxygen from the closet where its kept, amazingly comparing with a totally different product in the storage space that thermaware product folks won't even consider as competition.

This factor is huge for a new web company launching as the product is in early cycles and messaging and community competes with product management to build out the product roadmap.

This is a huge topic dear to my heart, I'd love to hear if you disagree, have any experience supporting this idea. Email me or post a comment.

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Anonymous Luana said...

Thanks for writing this.

11:50 AM  

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