Top Web Technology and Marketing trends for 2010 part 1 – Social Strategy and Infrastructure

I was at Barnes and Noble over the weekend and browsing through the business books section could see only 2 types of titles, books on the financial collapse and guides to social media marketing. Both are selling well I hear.

It’s good to see that after some significant doubts, corporate America and small businesses alike are engaging users on social media sites and twitting away. Unfortunately, what we often get is a complete schizophrenic approach. The corporate website is all law and order, control and command broadcasting carefully crafted and designed branding messages and product introductions. Then we have the social media wild west where everything goes, no rules exist and chaos reigns. Living with a split personality is hard and as Nestle recently found out, trying to enforce brand guidelines on Facebook can backfire at you.

As mentioned, there are a bucketload of books that will teach you how to engage and utilize social media, use it to form personal relationships and provide value add rather than just another outlet for PR.

I think a more urgent task we have is addressing the challenges of changing the purpose, structure and utility of public websites to adapt to the new social reality. Frankly, even after 6 years of “web 2.0” most sites are still pretty static brochureware, but the Social revolution is changing that quickly. Even though not every company will want to cancel their website and send users to Facebook instead as Skittles did for a few months, there is much to gain from trying to marry the two worlds.

The goals of the public website have not really changed: create a positive brand experience, attract and convert new customers, retain existing customers, make it easy to do business with you and provide great service anytime, anywhere. Now adding the social layer on top of that elevates it to a whole new level. It also requires a new and maturing technical infrastructure and tools to manage this experience.

Adding the social layer can take many forms but done right it will make every website more relevant, accessible, personal and effective. The tools to manage this new environment are still evolving and maturing but the next releases in all product categories will include a social integration layer.

Before embarking on the next iteration, every website owner must examine and decide: “How social should the company’s site be?”

Here are some guidelines for different models of social integration

  1. Divide and Conquer: create separate destinations for different types of interaction but make them distinct from the main site
  2. Complete control over brand experience: build the brand site into a social community
  3. Co-Promotion: link and syndicate content from site to social media, promote social media activity on site.
  4. Aggregation and context: aggregate relevant social media to site from multiple sources
  5. Integrate and Connect with Social Media: create a seamless experience and leverage identity and existing relationships

Of course, these modes are not mutually exclusive and can be used for different part of the site or in evolving fashion.

For more on these topics, I’m doing a webinar on 3/31/10 on best practices of social integration and will bring some examples. To register go here.

Insurance and Web 2.0

I’ll be giving a talk, as part of the 2008 ISOTech conference that will delve into use of web 2.0 in insurance. I’ve written before about what web 2.0 is and how to leverage it as well as about the rising adoption rate according to McKinsey.

Insurance is a specialized business and many people are very skeptical that the success seen in other industries can really translate into success in insurance. Jeff Jarvis in his blog “The Buzz Machine” wrote: “I can’t see any way that I’m going to see insurance as a social experience”

“I think our relationship with an insurance company is necessarily adversarial and one of mutual mistrust. Therefore it is impervious to social tools”

And Jeremiah Owian of Forrester Research wrote in his blog:

Overall, without surprise, the insurance industry has not adopted social tools”

It seems that both of them are taking a very narrow view to what web 2.0 is and as to what social tools can do to help any organization including insurance companies in improving their internal and external communication and collaboration.

First, you need to accept that web 2.0 is more than just a technology. It is a set of attitudes that if adopted, govern the use of existing and new technologies.

I’ll discuss what these attitudes are, what technologies are currently in place and emerging to support them.

Insurance carriers have multiple audiences they target. With Producers internal or external) still being the engine of business development, getting them all the data and services they need to their job is critical and the web opens up new collaboration and interaction channels not available before.

The following map illustrates all the different areas of collaboration and interaction that an Insurer will need to address:

There are a few new and exciting trends that I’ll speak about:

  • Social Computing: collaboration should not be limited to people. In a complex system like Insurance, multiple players, some human and some systems are all interacting through web based interfaces and services to complete tasks.
  • Mashups: how can new mashup technologies help bridge the vast gaps in siloed data and trun it into a web format that is easy to understand and act upon.
  • Agent engagement and Collaboration
  • A few alternative business models that are emerging
  • Power to the users: users now have all the information and power in their hands
  • Social, Mobile and Location based applications

And I’ll finish up with some lessons from the trenches about what works and what to avoid in developing your web 2.0 strategy and plans.

The Issues in Web 2.0 in the Insurance Organization session scheduled for Monday, November 10th from 10:45 – noon.

Hope to see you there.