Looking beyond Web 2.0 to the promise of the engaged Web

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In the June 2008 report titled Stop Managing Web Content! Forrester Research Senior Analyst Tim Walters, Ph.D explained it this way:

“Communities rival corporate sites for information and influence. Social computing and the democratization of online conversations about brands and products have helped dethrone content. The traditional one-way messaging of the corporate site has become a two-way exchange, igniting an explosion of conversations between consumers that remain virtually invisible to the enterprises.”

So what does this mean for us, as marketers?

To take advantage of the ample opportunities the new era of the engaged Web provides, we must shift our focus away from the traditional approach of pushing out the content and messages we hope will resonate with our key audiences, and instead focus on meeting the individual needs and preferences of our customers. We can do this by investing less time and energy in promoting ourselves, and more time fostering a compelling dialogue with the audiences we want to reach. If we succeed in engaging those audiences in a meaningful way, they will do the promoting for us.

Those looking to successfully market products and services in the new, conversation-based Internet environment should pay attention to these three rules of Web engagement:

Focus on users rather than content: Personalize Web content for individual users and help them to easily reach their goals by fostering two-way communication.

Think “relations” rather than “sessions:” Create a Web site capable of adjusting to the personal needs of the user, rather than maintaining a site using the “one size fits all” mantra.

Use what you know: Web engagement is served by content, but not governed by it. Traditional content management systems (CMS) are important, but the user experience and deployment of content should be controlled by insight into user behavior and preference.

With a deeper understanding of the individual needs and goals of our customers, we can create an engaging online experience with them, which will serve as a springboard to deeper, more lucrative relationships. Companies that aren’t looking to make dynamic Web engagement a priority may not be around to see what’s in store as we transition beyond Web 2.0 into the next digital age.

As President of EPiServer’s North American organization, A.J. Harring has more than 17 years of IT software sales and management experience. Contact: aj.harring@episerver.com.
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