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Businesses at Severe Risk if They Don't Embrace Web 2.0

May 25, 2008
Web 2.0 is not a new technology. Rather it is a whole new way of thinking about information, other people and how they interact. This will have an increasingly important effect on the way that companies do business.

Web 2.0 is distinct from web design and requires a change the way firms interact with their customers at every stage of the sales cycle. The key findings in the survey were:

1. Companies are still running their internet presence as a passive marketing exercise with little or no regard for the strategic repercussions of Web 2.0.
2. Many businesses are unaware of Web 2.0 and its implications.
3. The majority of businesses have no plans to update their strategy for Web 2.0.
4. Half of the respondents attributed no observable change in business performance from the web.
5. 65 per cent of respondents reported that they had an internet browser open all the time.
6. 95 per cent of the respondents confirmed that the Internet was indispensable to their work.
7. 97 per cent of respondents agreed completely or to an extent that the internet was their primary research tool.
8. 60 per cent of respondents reported that their main mode of written communication was by email.
9.Only 64 per cent of Chief Executives had come across the term Web 2.0.
10. The Wikipedia definition of Web 2.0 was originally an accurate and reliable source of information.
11. Almost half of companies used a design consultant rather than a specialist employee to maintain their web site.
12. Few businesses had embraced online selling.
13. Only 4 per cent of our sample had commissioned an outside specialist to manage their SEO.
14. Just over half of businesses use the web to distribute sales, marketing & communication collateral
15. There is a remarkable disregard for the importance of web site optimization.
16. Less than a fifth of businesses have implemented a keyword strategy.
17. Less than a quarter have taken action to ensure that they are "number 1" for their chosen search terms.

In the survey, business people from a wide range of enterprises were asked about their attitudes to Web 2.0. Whilst some of our findings were expected, others were surprising and could have a profound affect on the way that strategic planners consider the future.

The research proves that despite a deluge of informed comment indicating that Web 2.0 is about to change the business landscape, many businesses are unaware of Web 2.0 and its implications. Furthermore, the majority have no plans to update their strategy to accommodate Web 2.0 tools and methodologies that will be necessary for business survival.

Although the technologies have moved on dramatically, companies are still running their internet presence as a passive marketing exercise with little or no regard for the strategic repercussions of Web 2.0. For example, while 74 per cent had a mechanism to request sales contact, fewer than 30 per cent had a means for online purchase.

INTERNET INDISPENSABLE
One of the most astonishing results of this survey is that 97 per cent of all respondents agreed completely or to an extent that the internet was their primary research tool. This has very serious implications. The availability of information over the internet has never been greater and the growing sophistication of search engines in helping users to track down information has meant that traditional methodologies are falling into disuse.

Search engines are now using very sophisticated algorithms to guarantee the integrity of searches and are even ensuring that "paid for" advertisements will take customers to a relevant site. It is not so long ago that clicking on a link produced in response to a search for say "hotel benidorm" would bring up pages of portals and intermediaries. Today the top link actually is a hotel in Benidorm. This has been made possible by the increased sophistication of the algorithms and dissemination of rules by Google and others as to how businesses should construct their web sites. This has spawned a whole new industry whose mission is to help businesses to comply with the Search engine requirements for page content and layout.

Nonetheless, almost 30 per cent of the survey population treated the internet purely as an information source. The remainder had contributed content to the web in some form, with Articles and involvement in Social Networking being the most significant.

UGC IS NOT ALL BAD
One of the criticisms levelled at Web 2.0 is that the quality of the content. In other words, just because a lot of people think something is true, that does not necessarily prove veracity. The mass of conspiracy theory and faux research indicates that many people contribute content without regard for facts, accuracy or sometimes even legality. Many serious contributors therefore regard wikis as an unreliable, biased source of information undeserving of attention for any serious purpose.

Despite the ease of uploading documents and the increasing willingness of users to use the web as a primary research tool; it is amazing that only a little over half of businesses use it to distribute sales, marketing and communication collateral. It is interesting to note though that some businesses have already identified the power of social networking and are beginning to incorporate it into marketing, communication and recruitment strategies. The use of these tools is a good indicator of companies willingness to adapt to the environment and an excellent pointer towards their ability to survive.

Notwithstanding the ease with which online ordering can be implemented, it was surprising how few businesses had embraced online selling. Almost a quarter had no activity at all. It is also astonishing that despite the fact that search engines regard blogs as being a reliable indicator of active involvement in a market, 60 per cent of our sample had not yet developed a "blogging" strategy.

Management of a company's web site is crucial. The responses however showed a remarkable disregard for the importance of site optimization. Notwithstanding the importance of SEO for the future of their business, only 4 per cent had commissioned an outside specialist to manage their SEO. Only 41 per cent had dedicated resources supporting the problem while almost half were relying on a design consultant or an employee with additional responsibilities. This indicates that businesses simply have not understood how important is this issue .

SEO STRATEGIES
The results demonstrate a cavalier attitude to some of the key issues. While it is understandable that more than half of the sample regarded Social Networking as unnecessary, it is simply astonishing that less than a fifth have implemented a keyword strategy and less than a quarter have taken action to ensure that they are "number one" for their chosen search terms.

SUMMARY
Very few businesses are embracing Web 2.0 as fully as they need to. There is no doubt that as Web 2.0 gathers pace, businesses that do not adapt strategies to incorporate these and other Web 2.0 elements will find themselves increasingly isolated. With other channels becoming restricted by legislation and common business usage increasingly favouring the web as a primary medium (as discussed above), companies that do not adapt their strategies run severe risks as to their ongoing viability.
About the Author
Perry Burns advises businesses how to improve their new business development performance.
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