The Kids Dont Stand a Chance – Web 2.0 is Now Open for Business

Although I did not realize it at the time, my first exposure to Web 2.0 technologies came along with a discussion about the prevalence of pedophilia.  Our daughter was about eleven years old at the time, and she wanted to be allowed to join her friends who were using MySpace.  We, her parents, immediately envisioned our home on Dateline NBC with Chris Hansen, as some sick child predator was being led to the police car in handcuffs.

“No,” my wife said before I was done imagining beating the predator to death with a baseball bat… oh my… did I just say that out loud?  I’m sorry.  Anyway, we did what any strong, rational, confident and concerned parents would do in that situation… we ignored it as long as we could, and then called other parents to see what they had to say about it.

It all worked out just fine in the end, but for a few weeks all the parents were talking about it… until we discovered that you could keep a MySpace page private… or maybe it was just that the other parents gave in, so we did as well… I honestly can’t remember which.

The point is that MySpace is a social network, and social nets, as they’re referred to by those “in the know,” are a big part of what is now being widely referred to as Web 2.0.  Of course, social nets are only one of the components in Web 2.0’s bag of new tricks, there’s also blogging, bookmarking, podcasting, video sharing, and more, including the incredibly silly sounding Twitter.

OKAY, STOP.  Do not click out now.

How do I know you want out?  Because until about eight months ago, I would have wanted to turn the page at this point too.  Why didn’t I know about Twitter until recently?  Because it’s called “Twitter,” that’s why.

I’m not a techie, so don’t worry… it’s safe to stick around.  This may be your only chance to hear about this Web 2.0 stuff from a regular person who speaks English and remembers writing on yellow pads like it was yesterday… because it was basically yesterday that I was writing on yellow pads.

Computer technology has always annoyed me.  It almost never works the way it should, always costs more than it was supposed to, and the people who write the manuals are clearly not people with whom I’d want to converse.

I still remember the first time my cable modem went out and I couldn’t get on the Internet.  I called the cable company… waited on hold for about 15 minutes… explained that my modem wasn’t working and that I needed someone to come out and fix it.  I groaned when the tech support person said I could probably fix it myself.  Apparently, I needed to reset my broadband modem, so he told me to unplug the beige box… and then plug it back in.

Why don’t they just say unplug it and plug it back in?  And why the heck don’t they put a sticker on each modem that says: If this stops working, unplug it and plug it back in?  It sure would cut down on phone calls, I can tell you that.  Ever since then, when the Internet stops working, I call out to my wife: “Honey, could you please unplug the box and plug it back in?”  We’ve been married for some time now, so we’ve got the whole communication thing wired, so to speak.

Okay, so how did a guy like me become a Web 2.0 fanatic?  Well, truth be told, it’s all Barack Obama’s fault.  It was election night, 2008.  You have to admit, it was some night.  We were watching CNN and it looked like there were about a million people celebrating in Grant Park in Chicago.

Then Anderson Cooper said: “Now we’re going to Times Square,” and sure enough it looked like there were another million celebrating there.  “Now out to Los Angeles,” Cooper said, and yet another giant crowd jumping up and down.  It was incredible.

I couldn’t help joking about it, so I said: “Wow… this reminds me of the night Bush won in ’04.”

Maybe you had to be there.

Then Anderson said something that caused me to pause.  He said: Now we’re going to Helsinki… and then to Tokyo… and then to Melbourne… they’re celebrating in 70 countries around the world.”  And then they were switching from place to place, showing us the celebrations around the world.

That’s when I turned to my wife and said: “How the heck did he do that?  Even the Olympics has a hard time doing that.” How did people in all of those countries know to show up where the cameras were waiting?  Did he send people door-to-door in 70 countries around the world?  I know he raised a lot of money, but seriously?  It was amazing, especially when you consider that had McCain won, it would have looked like The Lawrence Welk Show was broadcasting from some Phoenix hotel.

The next day I was driving to my office, listening to NPR’s Morning Edition, and they were interviewing a presidential campaign historian who said: “Barack Obama is the first presidential candidate to have mastered the new Web 2.0 technologies.”  I had to know more.

I went home and started reading everything I could find online about Web 2.0 technologies.  On Thanksgiving, my wife said: “Do you have to do that on Thanksgiving,” she asked.  The answer was “yes,” but I know better than to ask that kind of question of a woman holding a carving knife, so I waited for everyone to fall asleep so I could return to my online education.

It was Christmas Eve 2008 when I officially stuck my toe in Web 2.0’s waters for the first time.  Our guests had gone home, and I was sitting in our living room waiting for Santa, when I said to myself: “Okay, self… prove it… do something… show off your new Web 2.0 abilities… you can’t just read about doing it forever.”

Today I can reach an audience of 100,000+ people without getting out of my bathrobe or spending a dime, through my blog, Mandelman Matters on ML-Implode.  And those that like what I have to say, write to me… and I write back.  They trust me to tell them the truth about how I think and feel, and to get my facts right… and I take that trust very seriously.  I try to never leave a comment unanswered, and I always give careful consideration to what someone has to say.  It’s so cool.

I can’t even tell you how many times this past year I’ve found myself in conversations about the new Web 2.0 tools and heard someone over thirty saying something like: “It’s the kids that use all that stuff… I don’t know anything about it.”  Or: “Oh yeah, my daughter made me open a Facebook account.”  Or: “Well, I’m on LinkedIn, but I really haven’t started using it for much yet.”

Well, let me tell you something you can take to the bank.  The kids may have started using the Web 2.0 tools first, but Web 2.0 is now open for business and from this point forward the kids don’t stand a chance.  My own daughter’s thirteen and she’s quite adept at using what’s online… but she can’t communicate with 100,000+ professionals without getting out of her bathrobe, now can she?

Web 2.0 Open for Business

You want to know why you should get to know what Web 2.0 technologies are all about?  How about ten rock solid reasons?

1. No Technical Skill Needed – That’s right, no more “coding,” squiggle, squiggle, bracket, dot, dash, squiggle.  Everything you need is point and shoot, fill-in-the-blank type stuff.  Can you type your name?  Then you’re pretty much ready to go.

2. No Advertising Your Web Address – Remember those Super Bowl ads during the late 1990s that cost zillions to tell us how to find a Website… well, they were stupid and unnecessary just like we all thought.

3. It’s Free – And when I say free, I’m not talking mostly free, I’m talking sans cost.  You don’t need any special equipment or software.  If you can write a letter and email it, you’re all set.

4. You Can Do it Yourself – That’s right…. No new hires needed.  You can harness the power of Web 2.0 all by your lonesome.

5. Precise Targeting – Web 2.0 makes direct mail look like it has the targeting capability of a billboard on the freeway.

6. Communicate in Any Medium – Print, video, audio, photos, Web 2.0 allows you to broadcast like a television or radio station, be your own magazine or newspaper, or write a letter like you’d write to Mom.

7. Measure Your Results – Web 2.0 is perhaps the most measurable communications medium ever invented.  There is nothing you can’t know about the effectiveness of your efforts, almost in real time.

8. Last Minute, No Problem – Need to get a message out to your target audience 30 minutes ago… no problem.  Try that with any other communications medium.

9. Reach the Whole World – It’s amazing to consider, but with Web 2.0 tools you can quite literally reach people around the globe… free.  The implications are staggering.  If you have the “right” message, and clearly Barack Obama had such a message during his campaign, you can communicate with billions of people and next thing you know, they can be celebrating in 70 countries around the world.

10. Getting Better All the Time – The World Wide Web that we all became familiar with during the latter half of the 1990s was something akin to Henry Ford’s Model T, compared to the tools available today.  But as good as it is, it’s getting better all the time.

The Business View

When the infamous dot-com bubble popped in 2000, many of us took a snapshot of the Web and filed it away, believing that we understood what it was, and what is was not.  But technology moves forward whether there’s an IPO in its future or not.

The World Wide Web is a giant book of information that’s not organized, alphabetized or indexed, and that’s why the first things that needed to be developed were search engines.  But the visionaries that develop technologies for the Web saw that it could be used for much more than just finding information.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks, as they probably said in 1800.  What is included in Web 2.0 and how can a business benefit from all of these advantages?

Social Nets

Technology developers realized that people could congregate in communities on the Web.  First there were simple “chat rooms,” and “bulletin boards,” but soon they added functionality.  Instead of just “chatting,” people could now post photos, audio files, and videos.  And the various pages could be designated as being for people with very specific interests.  These groups of people with common interests on the Web are today called “social networks” and there are tens of millions of people participating in thousands of them every day.

Today you can go to a group’s page within a social network, and find everyone there for the same or similar reasons.  Maybe everyone enjoys gardening, or is passionate about classic cars, or sells insurance, or graduated from the same university, or is a doctor.

Today, when I write a new article and post it on my site, I don’t have to worry about people finding my Website’s URL address through a search engine.  I simply go to a specific group I’m a member of within a social net, such as LinkedIn, which is a social net for business people, and post a link to my new article on the group’s discussion board.  When the members of the group come to their group’s page, they see my link.  And if they find the subject of my posting valuable, they click the link and are transported to my site where they can read whatever it is that I’ve written.  And if they really like it, they can click “Subscribe,” so that they’ll receive an email whenever I post something new.  Too cool, right?

Human Search Engines: Social Bookmarking

You bookmark something you find on the Web because you want to be able to find it again.  But, chances are that if you found a given site valuable, others will too.  This is the basis behind the technology known today as “social bookmarking”.

Social bookmarking sites are places people store bookmarks.  For instance, if someone found a great article on the new HVCC rules on appraisals (perhaps the one I wrote in this magazine last month), that person could bookmark it on a social bookmarking site so that others could find it too.  (Hint, hint.)  And they could bookmark it within a certain category… say “Real Estate,” so it would be easy for others who might find it interesting, to find it.

Social bookmarking sites have grown to have tens of millions of users, so there are now hundreds of millions of “bookmarked” pages, and once you start using one, you’ll start thinking of these bookmarking sites as human search engines because they retrieve pages placed there by human beings.  And it’s not hard to imagine that people often make better choices than machines and their complex algorithms.

The Ubiquitous Blogosphere

For people like you and me, blogs ARE Websites, they just don’t require the HTML programming that Websites do <HREF>.  I’m sure some would say that Websites are better at some things because they can incorporate all sorts of Flash animation, or whatever, but to my eye… blogs look every bit as good as Websites and oftentimes a whole lot better.  Plus, blogs allow people to leave comments, and allow you to respond.  And that’s a pretty big deal when you’re trying to communicate, as I’m sure you’d agree.

Anyone can build a blog, and even better, anyone can change one.  I add something to mine at least once a day.  The more you post on your blog, and the more people that go to it… the higher it will rank in Google’s search engine.

Twitter, by the way, is considered “micro-blogging” and I’ve found a lot of people to have no idea what Twitter is, or why they would possibly want to “tweet”.  I understand this, because I had no idea either… until recently.

Once you have people “following” you on Twitter, you can send them all a short message just by typing it in and pressing send, sort of like a text message on a cell phone…   It’s fast and efficient, and now I use it everyday.  Sometimes I use it to let people know about a new article.  Sometimes I use it to tell everyone about an important change in the law, or if some breaking news is important to their businesses.

The Secret to Web 2.0 Success: Think Like a Publisher, Not Like a Marketer

Ask yourself the following question: What’s so great about the Internet?  Why do we all love it so much?  Because it provides us with information at our fingertips, that why.  We go online to find information almost every singe day.  We’re not looking for sales pitches.

So, if you want to be successful using Web 2.0, you have to stop thinking like an advertiser or a marketer, and start thinking like a publisher.  A publisher understands that it’s content that’s king.  Produce content that people find valuable, and they’ll find you online and return time and again.  Stick a sale pitch in someone’s face, and they’ll click off so fast you won’t even know they were there.

Marketers have a very different set of concerns.  Marketers are concerned with the offer… the sales pitch, if you will.  And if you’ve tried advertising lately, you have some idea of how ineffective it can be, unless perhaps you’re having a 50% off sale.  I can remember when a direct mail program could be expected to generate a 2-3% response, but the last time that happened I was storing information on a floppy disk.

Let’s say you own a real estate agency and you want to use Web 2.0 tools to attract customers.  So, first things first, you create a blog for your firm.  You might publish articles about the latest trends in the real estate market, or have a column written by a CPA that examines tax implications of various real estate transactions.  The point is, you won’t be selling… you’ll be providing valuable information.

Next you sign up for Facebook and LinkedIn.  And within those social nets, you’ll join groups that represent your target audiences.  We might join a real estate investor group, or a group of entrepreneurs and business owners… or active seniors.  The point is, you’ll publish content that audiences will want to read or watch that’s somehow related to real estate, but certainly isn’t selling it.  Selling is for your Website.  This is your blog… where you want to engage in discussions and build relationships as a result.

When we publish a new article on when and how to utilize a tax emption related to selling your home, we’ll go to the appropriate groups and post a link to that article.  We’ll choose several social bookmarking sites and we’ll “bookmark” our article in the categories that make sense for the content you’re offering.

Now you’ve provided a link to important information to thousands of people in your target audiences… maybe tens of thousands, and without paying a dime.  Will people read it?  Only if it’s good.  Of course, no one pays attention to crummy advertising either.

And it doesn’t have to be an article that you post, by the way.  You could post a video on your blog.  The video may be hosted on YouTube, a video sharing site and another Web 2.0 tool.  Or we might record a Podcast, and post the link to it, although it might be hosted on

We might even post content that someone else created and simply encourage others to join in a discussion about the topic.  That’s right… we don’t even have to create all of the content ourselves.  Lots of people post links to articles, videos and Podcasts created by others, and then host discussions about them in online groups and on their own blogs.

There’s no limit to the ways in which a business can utilize Web 2.0 to reach an audience, and no limit to the size of the audience that can be reached due to no media costs.  And with the availability of sophisticated tools such as Google analytics, it’s easy to measure what’s working, and what’s not.

Now Is the Time to Get Started…

I understand as well as anyone that optimism is hard to let go, but the writing on the wall is pretty darn clear at this point: We’ve got some rough waters ahead, every company in America is going to have made some significant adjustments, and some won’t make it through the storm intact.  The recovery of our economy, when it does come, will not be a ‘V,’ as the pundits like to say.

That’s no reason to throw in the towel, however, while some will succumb to the economic doldrums, others will prosper and grow.  For example, not every company limped along through the Great Depression of the 1930s.  For example:

{    Chevrolet took Ford out of the number one slot that Ford had comfortably maintained throughout the 1920s.

{    Proctor & Gamble became the dominant market force it is today, largely because of the lead it captured during the 1930s.

These companies grew to dominate their competition during the 1930s largely as a result of their innovative marketing strategies.  Chevrolet took advantage of a new advertising medium… billboards.  And Proctor & Gamble invested in the other “new” communications technology of the day… it was called “radio”.

In the years ahead, you should plan to spend less on marketing than you have in the past, and today’s traditional advertising mediums are, for the most part, as ineffective as they are expensive.  You have to segment your markets, tighten your targets, and reach out more memorably… all in all, you have to market smarter and more cost effectively than ever before.

So, don’t be afraid of using what’s new on the Web.  If I can do it, you can to.  But let’s not tell the kids, okay?  I think it’s best if they continue thinking they’re way ahead of us, whether that turns out to be the case or not.

Follow “Mandelman” on Twitter.

Page Rank