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Web 2.0 effective activities for your business

Linda Bustos from Get Elastic had compiled a great list of activities to help boost business, and spend your marketing effort in effective ways. Read the full article here – this is just a summary:

Wikipedia defines WEB 2.0 as “a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that lets people collaborate and share information online.”

Wikipedia is a great web 2.0 website itself, as it allows collaboration and user participation, such as contributing information, and editing or flagging existing content.

According to Linda, and I tend to agree, here are the most effective web 2.0 tools, in order of effectiveness (the first one is the most effective…)

1. Customer Reviews:

Unlike a lot of social media marketing, customer reviews directly impact conversion, boost customer satisfaction and reduce complaints and expenses for returns. Reviews are also assets you can leverage in email, in-store signage and offline circulars. Reading customer reviews helps you better understand the consumer and your product to improve product descriptions and marketing strategies.

2.  Shopping Widgets

Shopping widgets refer to portable content that can be displayed (almost) anywhere on the Web. This allows retailers to push an interactive experience to affiliate sites, customer sites, social networks and more. Investing in the creation of your own widget is typically very low, and the return is almost immediate.

3.  Questions and Answers

Better than user forums, ask and answer tools bring the conversation right onto the product page, and open up questions to the shopping community to answer. You’re likely to get a better answer from someone who owns the product than from a customer service rep who hasn’t seen or used the product.
Like reviews, questions and answers improve product information and can improve conversion. They also give you insight into customers’ heads. The downside is the time lag between a question asked and answered, and sometimes the quality of consumer-generated answers (must be moderated for accuracy).

4.  Twitter

Another way to ask and answer questions is through Twitter, the latest Web 2.0 hype machine. Users can get nearly instant answers to questions (provided they’re under 140 characters) directed at a retailer or the general Twitter universe.

An effective way of using twitter is including a widget on your website, showing your corporate “tweeting”, not just pointing to your twitter account – this allows your website visitors to assess the value of your tweets instantly and gives them the opportunity to follow you IF they see value…

5.  User generated cross-sell and photos

Amazon.com and Apple are using this method very effectively. These websites let you, as the user, know what other people who bought the same items you’re interested in, also bought – this is a mouthful, but let me explain:
Suppose you’re interested in a particular book, Amazon.com will let you know, that other people who bought this book, also bought, or were interested in other books from the same author/genre.
This tool allows you to let other customers, and their behaviour, impact other customers! Essentially you’re letting other customers act as your salespeople.
You can allow customers to upload their own photos showing how they use your products. For example – if you’re selling eyeware,  your customer will show how certain frames fit their face. This will change the question :”should I buy from you?” to “which frame will look better on me?” … (see EyeBuyDirect’s Wall of Frame).

6.  Facebook pages

Your success is likely determined by how popular you already are. Some of the success stories include:

Victoria’s Secret – 1,900,000+ fans
American Eagle Outfitters – 430,000+ fans
Gap – 323,933+ fans
Old Navy – 189,000+ fans
Sephora – 158,000+ fans

The best Facebook Pages have taken advantage of the platform to create a social network for their most raving fans that lives where they play, not on the retailer’s website. This makes it much easier to share and invite other friends to participate, rather than forwarding emails or product pages to friends that drive people to the retailer’s website.

Though Facebook Pages are free, the maintenance and promotion of them come at a cost. Consider the additional resources you’ll need to customize your page design and features, the moderation of the page (do you have a social media manager?) and the marketing you’ll need to do on your website and in emails.
Linda believes that Facebook Applications, and ads are not as effective, as they may attract “clicks”, but have poor conversion rates.

7.  Co-Browsing

Products like ShopTogether and PurchLive add a social component to a retail site by offering the ability to invite a friend to co-browse an online store in real-time. For example, Charlotte Russe gives the option to invite friends through Twitter and Facebook. It updates your status with a shortlink for anyone who wants to join you on your visit. While I think this technology is really innovative and cool, I’m not completely sold on the idea that people want to shop online together unless it’s a consultative situation, like a wedding planner or interior decorator with a client.

8. Social widgets on your site

Like anything social, this makes sense for certain industries and less sense for others.Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect allows site visitors to “join” your site’s community, explore other members’ profiles and leave comments on your site. It’s a nice way to collect authentic site comments and testimonials but expect participation to be lower than other web 2.0 activities.

9.  Retail Blogging

Blogs can be a great way to connect with customers, talk about new products, share interviews, videos, podcasts, news, photos and jokes. They can be a branding/loyalty vehicle. They can attract links and search engine traffic. They can put a human face on your business.

Retail blogs also take a lot of work. They require a lot of love and nurturing to stay fresh and popular. Posting a random article every 3 months doesn’t cut it. And they are less likely to drive sales than other Web 2.0 initiatives. You’d need to stick to strategies that work for your audience and support long term engagement and loyalty that hopefully translates into sales (or at least better search rankings).

10.  Video Sharing

It’s very simple to set up a Youtube account (or any other video sharing site) and upload videos, which for most channels may get a couple hundred, maybe a couple thousand views — but there’s a disconnect between watching a video and buying a product through a video sharing site. This could change if Youtube builds out its click to buy capabilities beyond iTunes (links to purchase product embedded right in the video).

Adding video to Youtube and other video sharing sites could help you get some additional search engine exposure, since Google likes to mix video results in with regular web pages, news stories and image results (blended search). Youtube itself is a search engine, so for the effort required to upload video you already use on your site, this gives you an extra benefit. And like widgets, people can put your video on their blogs and websites if it’s interesting / remarkable.

Conclusion

In today’s online retail environment, social tools are becoming more and more important as the Web itself becomes more social — yet retailers struggle to find social tactics that drive real sales and ROI. Not every social activity is appropriate for a retailer – it depends on the product it sells, the competitive industry, consumer behavior and the retailer’s commitment to invest in the resources to develop and maintain social initiatives.

The aim of this post is to give you an idea of what kind of activities you can engage in, and the likelihood of real business value each activity will have. As with anything, your mileage will vary.

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