Segmented captive audiences, instant messaging, video uploading, blog editing, photo galleries, content ranking and rewards, these are but a few of the features that make today’s interactive Web 2.0 environment fun and addictive for social net users.
Corporations too, realize that the digital playground can also be potential marketing tool. However, creating a business-sustaining Web community is not always that easy and would certainly involve extra site production and bandwidth expenditure.
For companies seeking to exploit the potentials of Internet-based social networking, there are two main options: build-it-yourself; or turn to outfits like Pringo Networks, one of the growing number of firms offering help in creating or retrofitting corporate sites for the Web 2.0
Launched in 2002 by programmer Harvard Young and marketer Nouriel Gino Yazdani, the company now offers more than 400 Web 2.0 features in 26 different languages. Built on the idea of a scalable and fully extendable platform, the features can be easily added on to site without interrupting existing Web site functions. Pringo has created sites for associations as well as companies in the financial, publishing, entertainment and sports industries.
Gary Hall, president for Pringo, has the following tips for firms contemplating a Web 2.0 presence:
It’s not just for kids — Sure, with the time they spend online the average teenager might qualify for salary from FaceBook. But social networking is not just for kids, says Hall. “Social media is moving towards niche groups.”
User generated content (UGC) and traffic is evolving to include more mature audiences.
Get employees hooked in –Use social networks to connect workers and groups within your company. With instant messaging, events managements and collaboration tools, teams can cut down on phone and e-mail tag and increase productivity.
Tap into users – Make the most of Web visitors. There are applications that can help you organize and analyze information that visitors voluntarily provide such as user profiles. Others applications help glean Web browsing habits. The information gathered can help in making decisions in areas such as marketing campaigns and Web experience enhancement.
Pack it with features –Digital media sharing, pod casting, blog editing, real simple syndication (RSS) feeds and events management tools, just a few of the features which Web 2.0 have become accustomed to and come to expect.
“Exiting features and functionalities that enable visitors to connect and interact with community members are essential in driving traffic to a site, “says Hall.
For instance, interesting photo galleries encourage visitors to click through more pages. Engaging blogs, exciting games and contests help to keep viewers attentions. If users have a good time on a site, they invite others to join them.
Fun and prizes – Web 2.0 users long to share talents, thoughts and tastes. Ranking and rewards are not unwelcome either. Robert Adams, a CEO of financial research site developed by Pringo says it enables users to post their stock analysis and allows fellow community members to rate these postings.
For other sites, this feature can be tweaked to include games that offer awards or reward points that might be exchanged to company products or services.
Avoid clutter —With the number of features and functionalities available, there’s always a risk of overdoing things. Horoscope and celebrity news feeds might be of marginal use for an investment site. “A good rule of thumb is to keep features relevant to your site and your goals,” advises Hall.
Sponsors and ad placements – There are three main areas where advertising can be positioned on a site: The banner; 720 x 90 pixel rectangle on the top page, medium rectangle; a 300 x 250 pixel on right or left of the page, and skyscraper; a 160 x 600 pixel column.
Advertisers will often avoid being placed “below the fold” an area on the screen where viewers have to scroll down to get to.
Get advertisers to sponsor games or contests.
You can also get sponsors for specific sections that provide additional information. Popular channels include: lifestyle, parenting, politics and health. Sponsors can also have their logos on the “skins” of music and video download players.
With the work involved in developing a social networking site, Hall suggests that companies seek out a third party developer to help build the site. “An in-house design can take a long as 18 months, but the right vendor can have you up and running in two to eight weeks.”
“Social net users also love to discover new features and tend to move on when a site gets boring. Site developers may cost money, but they have more time and resources to dedicate in developing applications.”