Tuesday, June 10, 2008

There's a web2.0 hammer for lots of business nails

I was talking to a prospect today and they mentioned that their recent expansion had created an entire new level of people involved in their business. In other words, their staff now was communicating with end-clients through an array of agents and contractors, which had not been the case as much in the past. This raised the concern with them that they would not hear stories, both good and bad, from the front lines, and that they would struggle to communicate out to those end-clients.

After they finished speaking, I offhandedly said, "Have you thought of starting a social network where your clients, agents and contractors could all contribute?" Their kind of business has some strong unifying factors and a social network, to me, was a natural step to aid in the kind of communication they wanted.

They grabbed right onto the idea. It brought to mind Josh Bernoff's ("Groundswell") recent statement that few will make a business out of providing web2.0 tools to consumers, but many companies will thrive if they can create tools for use inside businesses.

And in today's business world, there are opportunities to use these tools to greatly improve information flow, collaboration and idea generation. Here are some thoughts:

wikis...for group collaboration
social networks...for communicating with customers/partners
blogs and RSS...for communicating and listening to the broader industry or world at large
social bookmarking...for sharing interesting ideas
microblogging...to create a feeling of a virtual workspace

There are countless other possible examples. Andrew McAfee has an interesting take, where he assigns tools based on the strength of people's ties. He also usefully points out that these tools work best when structures are allowed to emerge from the interaction of the participants, rather than being imposed by some authority.

(Picture by gerard79 via stock.xchng)

Related post:
Dell's web2.0 efforts pay off

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