Getting a Boost from Business 2.0

Mar 23, 2010


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Most people are familiar with the term "Web 2.0," which refers to a second generation of web development and design that focuses on fostering social networking via the web. Innovative companies are beginning to embrace the social web as a way to enhance communication, information sharing, and collaboration, thereby allowing them to work smarter rather than harder.
Business 2.0 is about using the new web-based social networking applications (many of which were originally created for personal use) in a way that fosters teamwork, customer touches, and internal and external collaboration in a low-cost seamless way. Unfortunately, many businesses feel that Web 2.0 and social networking are for the younger generation and a waste of time when used by employees. However, once you understand the power of these applications and how to use them in your company, you'll quickly find that they can be invaluable tools to boost your bottom line.

Many personal tools have business applicability. For instance, Facebook enables you to connect and share with the people in your life. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with others. People can add friends, send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. However, in a Business 2.0 context large organizations can connect all of their employees, or members, with Facebook. Some are finding an added advantage of using an internal, secure version of Facebook. This has helped organizations to dramatically increase their internal networking and collaboration. Ask yourself, "Could we use Facebook, or our own internal version, to get people to collaborate at a higher level?"

Twitter is a bit different, as a micro-blogging service that allows friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of short, quick answers using no more than 140 characters per message. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or co-workers. Users can receive updates via the Twitter website or other social networking sights such as Facebook. Many young people use Twitter for answering the question: What are you doing? Business users could change that question to: What problem are you trying to solve? Several companies have used this as a fast way to solve problems. Hotels, airlines, and airports are using Twitter to pitch services, travel updates, and respond to travelers needs. Business users should ask themselves, "Could we use Twitter to solve problems faster with our organization or our customers?"

Wikipedia has been around for a while. A free online encyclopedia, anyone can use Wikipedia to find information on virtually any topic. Anyone can edit the content as well. A large manufacturing company with engineers in locations around the world increased problem solving and collaboration by creating an internal, secure version of Wikipedia for sharing information on parts and service offerings as well as repair and maintenance instructions. Retailers and suppliers could create a version of Wikipedia to foster education and training as well as enhanced information sharing.
YouTube is a video sharing website where users can upload, view, and share video clips. Businesses are posting humorous commercial videos to generate interest in their products with great success. The more entertaining it is, the more people watch it. Business partners could create a YouTube like channel for the purpose of educating and training.

Digg is a social news website made for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the internet, by submitting and accessing links and stories. Voting stories thumbs up or a thumb down is the site's cornerstone function, respectively called digging and burying. Many organizations have found this to be a good way to track the most interesting advances in technology or the most useful business news. Large organizations can create their own internal version for sharing what employees consider the most useful information. Similarly, Delicious is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. It uses a non-hierarchical classification system in which users can tag each of their bookmarks with freely chosen index terms. Business users can share their most useful websites with co-workers or business partners. If a customer purchases a product, sellers could share relevant bookmarks that keep the customer coming back for more information and hopefully more products.

Still, there are some tools built for exclusively Business 2.0 purpose, such a Wiki-a collaborative web page or collection of web pages designed to enable anyone to create a quick web page that allows visitors to search the Wiki's content and edit the content in real time, as well as view updates since their last visit. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. On a moderated Wiki, owners review comments before additions to the main body of the topic. Additional features include calendar sharing, live AV conferencing, RSS feeds, and more.

LinkedIn is a business-oriented professional networking website for exchanging information, ideas, and opportunities. There are over 35 million registered users spanning 170 industries actively networking with each other. For example, large insurance companies use LinkedIn to foster networking with their independent sales representatives. HR professionals from all over the world could use LinkedIn to share best practices. Could you use LinkedIn to expand your organizational network for enhanced knowledge sharing?

Cloud Computing is a sometimes confusing term referring to, where some or all of the storage, software, IT processes, and data center facilities you use can exist on your provider's server, which is maintained and cared for by your provider, giving you 24/7 access from any device anywhere. The cost of upgrading hardware and software, maintenance, and associated IT labor costs can be dramatically reduced or eliminated. Currently, the ideal organization would be any size company that's facing big investments in computing and communications infrastructure. For example, Amazon.com can give you an entire e-commerce back end. Software as a Service (SaaS) such as SalesForce.com has a CRM package, SciQuest has a spend management package, and Google, Microsoft and others have a suite of offerings. It's possible your business could use cloud computing and SaaS to streamline your IT needs.

By reframing the use of social networking technology, companies can increase communication, collaboration, problem solving, and competitive advantage with little cost. Remember, many of these tools are free or nearly free, making them accessible to even the smallest of businesses. Therefore, the sooner you embrace Business 2.0 and put it to work for you, the faster you can penetrate new markets and win the lion's share of business.