What exactly is Web 2.0 and how are small businesses in Alameda County using it? I had the opportunity to discuss this trend at Fremont’s latest small business workshop.

Web 2.0, driven by the popularity of social media, has shifted the dynamics of customer communication to engagement and two-way conversation, over the one-way communication that characterized the early years of internet marketing and more than a hundred years of advertising. Web 2.0 is all about engaging the customer through interactive mediums, such as social media and blogs.

Much of what you have learned about website development (website analytics, search engine optimization, website content, navigation, etc.) will continue to be relevant. And, the key to website effectiveness will still be viewing it through your customer’s eyes (i.e. providing what your customers want or need). But, Web 2.0 now encompasses tools that allow people to build social and business connections, share information, and collaborate online. It includes both on-website tools (e.g. blogs, chat, etc.) and tools outside of the website (social media, online directories, email marketing, etc.).

Large companies are using Web 2.0 tools to collaborate with customers on product development, service enhancements, and promotion. They have found that using the online community is much faster and cheaper than the traditional tools (e.g. focus groups and surveys). Many small companies have also started using Web 2.0 tools for online marketing. Three of the tools most commonly used by small businesses are:

  1. Facebook for consumer marketing (or LinkedIn for industrial marketing)
  2. Blogs (website blogs are better, but blogging platforms can add some value)
  3. Email marketing (e.g. frequent email newsletters)

In addition to the marketing and technology skills needed for online marketing, Web 2.0 also requires an understanding of psychology and sociology to manage the interactive discussions that take place on social media and other Web 2.0 platforms. Plan on training people in these skills or hiring/contracting a specialist to fill this need. Also, start small and budget time into your weekly schedule. It is better to choose one Web 2.0 tool and use it well, instead of producing a mediocre effort using two or three tools.

For more information on the Web 2.0 seminar, visit the Alameda County SBDC website at www.acsbdc.org/handouts. For upcoming small business programs in Fremont, visit www.fremont.gov/doingbusiness.