Web 2.0


Yesterday, Jeanette Gibson of Cisco’s new media group talked about the launch of their new Web 2.0 site on October 2.  (See my post here about the site.)  Why did Cisco add Web 2.0 features?  They’ve recognized that there is a shift of power in the market, according to Jeanette. They are changing the way they communicate and collaborate. It’s clear that consumers now drive content. Cisco marketing launched the ‘human network theme’—and asked consumers to post their own pictures and share stories with Cisco about how the network has changed their lives.  She said that they learn from their customers every day. (Very cool statement, right?)

Other key web site changes at Cisco:

  • Press room contains lots of videos. They are exploring how to maintain interactivity with customers and partners on the site. For example, how to deploy video, click to talk and more.
  • The ‘employee experience network’ internal blog, and wikis (project workspace/web site that all members can update) is place for employees to learn about new interactive communications and provide feedback.
  • Customers want more personalization on web site. Cisco offers folders for customers to add info that they want to return to—favorite white papers, etc. (Doesn’t ‘favorite white papers’ sound like an oxymoron?)
  • According to focus groups, personalization should also include the ability to post a sticky with notes about a piece of content, a great video and email to their boss, friend.

On how to measure results.  (Isn’t measurement always a sticky-wicket?)  Some of the ways Cisco is  gauging how the new Web 2.0 features are working. Execs ask:

  1. Who are the influencers we want to reach? Are they blogging/talking about Cisco?
  2. What are the Alexa (site that shows traffic rating for web sites) results for key pages. 
  3. How does info flow? They have to maintain a genuine dialog with each community. Cisco knows they cannot just shove messages out any longer. 
  4. How well are they pulling in new and different people (A-list bloggers) into mix with traditional influencers (editors, analysts). 

The Policy Blog is the top public Cisco blog.  Visitors find more specific, targeted views on a blog. They get the opinion of someone inside Cisco—more interactive, not just a press release.

In the future, brochures could become more authentic, like a blog. And lose the spin.

They know they need to engage with customers honestly; with more openness and authenticity.

How can you engage more interactively with your customers, web site visitors?

The Blog Business Summit’s  (in Seattle) first set of panelists today was Jeanette Gibson from Cisco, Corporate Communications and John Starkweather of Microsoft.  They shared insights about how their companies were adopting the so-called new media—blogs, wikis (web sites that can be updated by web visitors), and podcasts, etc..

At Microsoft the openness started with their developers.  Many of the rest of Microsoft had to be brought along.  Even though everyone knows the internet makes it easy for  geographically dispersed folks to talk to each other—it still had to sink into the majority of the rest of Microsoft how that really changes things (like company communications, marketing). You cannot just throw messages out there anymore.  The challenges, he said, for the company was to how to be open and still preserve the intellectual property aspects of their tech-company traditions.   The challenge for all companies is to be both open and closed, when engaging customers and influentials in the new social networking-world, especially blogging.

An example of how communities work and benefit business:  Microsoft started the Mobius community, make up of online writers/bloggers that are passionate about mobile devices and gadgets. The community evolved on its own. Now it is loose moderator role that he plays.  Microsoft benefits because the Mobius community-members provide specific things they would like the mobile platform to do.   Microsoft has made feature and functionality changes, based on these community requests.  
John Starkweather’s advice to companies:

  • Take hard feedback.
  • Listen. Change. Evolve. 

And use new vehicles to reach people, think, small screens on handheld devices.   He describes the Mobius community as one of Microsoft’s “…most valuable professional program.  Members are very engaged and will share.” 

How could your company benefit from more feedback and insights from customers and users?  More from the Blog Business Summit later.

With the launch of its new web site on October 2, 2006, Cisco is taking a leadership role in showing businesses how to use a web site to get closer to customers, build communities and improve collaboration with those customer communities.  These are three goals  companies of all sizes can aspire to.                                                                                                                                                                   

How is Cisco doing this?  Well, the short answer is they are using the emerging, so-called Web 2.0 tools.  Web 2.0 is the catch-phrase for new Internet capabilities that really do make it easier for all of us—especially businesses—to interact online in new, easier ways.  Blogs, Podcasts (audio recordings), and Wikis (workspaces for online, group collaboration)are part of Web 2.0.  The longer answer is, Cisco is simply taking advantage of some new Internet tools that many companies of all size can also tap into.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Some Some of the new features and capabilities Cisco has added to their site include:           Networking Professionals Connection—this is an online forum where registered customers and users, can ask questions and post experiences and comments online about using Cisco’s products. Customers and users can then actually, answer each other’s questions.  Hence, a ‘community’, or, user groups on steroids.  And some of the ‘work’ can be accomplished by customers/users helping each other.  It is not all on Cisco employees to answer every question—and there are a lot of them already! 

                                                                                                                                                         

Cisco also is hosting, Member Product Reviews (member refers to the fact, I think, that you must register in order to post questions and comments on these new web site sections).   So think of user forums—right on Cisco’s corporate web site.  And with all of the comments customers, users and other interested parties are allowed to make about using its products—after registering—you might ask why Cisco would need to maintain blogs.  (After all, the networking giant is trying to build communities, and you cannot build a community without knowing who your members are, so you must register.)  And more importantly, just how long will it take them to answer the questions?       

If your company takes this approach, be sure to have your employees available to respond to the questions. I viewed some questions on the Cisco site that were posted on October 9 and not answered yet.   See here for Discussion Forum on IP Telephony (Internet Protocol Telephony) where the red check mark indicates an answered question.  As of this writing on 10-15-06, I see only a couple of red check marks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 In the Ask the Experts section, you find 2-week long conversations where you can post questions to key Cisco engineers and product managers and have an “…opportunity to learn with…” their experts on various technical topics that relate to how products, solutions and technologies function.                                                                                           

There is much, much more.  You should cruise Cisco.com to find all the nuggets.  I applaud Cisco for its openness, and willingness to collaborate.  Cisco always had lots of content on their site (they now even have ‘video datasheets’ for featured products).  But now Cisco has extended the content and added true, two-way conversations among their experts and their customers.         

                                                                                                                                  

How could your company participate?   Well, it could be easier than you might think.  Despite the fact that your web site budget is no where near Cisco’s, many of the web 2.0 technologies are within the reach of many smaller companies.  For example, you could host a question and answer forum on your company’s (soon-to-be-launched) blog or make a 15-minute audio recording interviewing your employees about what was behind the development of a new product or service.  You know,  a conversation-starter.  More on using new Web-based technologies to engage customers and prospects to come in future posts.