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Embracing the Social Web

article by: Andy McIlwain

The Evolution of the Social Web

In September 2006 we introduced the subject of the social web; an internet movement for the masses that revolves around the concept of online networking (between people, not systems) and interaction. We took note of MySpace and YouTube - the latter of which was still in its infancy - and suggested that readers jump right into the thick of it all.

Almost three years have passed since then, and much has changed. The social web phenomenon took off like a rocket; YouTube grew exponentially (and was eventually bought by Google for a very large sum of money); MySpace lost market share to Facebook; blogs started popping up on mainstream media websites.

To appreciate just how influential this "social web" has become, one needs to look no further than current world events. By embracing the power of social networking websites and online media, a relatively unknown politician by the name of Barack Obama went from being an Illinois senator to being President Elect of the United States. In a few short weeks, he'll be sitting in the White House delivering his regular radio address via YouTube.

Setting Yourself Apart

The key to the social web is involvement. For businesses and individuals alike, it's all about taking customer relationships to the next level, opening up to the public and becoming more accessible.

Set yourself apart from the competition - become a leading authority on whatever you do by writing about it on a blog, talking about it on YouTube or discussing it with colleagues and peers on forums and social networking sites. If your business sells bicycles, offer reviews of new products; if you're a freelance contractor give Mike Holmes a run for his money and show home owners how to spot property damage.

An effective website can show what you do, but when you start offering additional insight and opening yourself up to questions and feedback through social networking, you're backing it all up with proof.

In a marketing sense, you're establishing yourself - or your company - as a leading brand.

The Bottom Line

Nothing in life is free... an unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless. There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account - such as the commitment of time and considerable effort - when it comes to using the social web for business or marketing communications.

The bottom line, of course, is this: does it work for you? As with anything else, the answer depends on the individual or business.

Andy McIlwain is a 2nd year Advertising/Integrated Marketing Communications student attending St. Lawrence College. He is currently on placement with 14 Theories Web Development.