Most people are familiar with the term "Web 2.0," which refers to a
second generation of web development and design that focuses on
fostering social networking via the web. Innovative companies are
beginning to embrace Web 2.0 as a way to enhance communication,
information sharing, and collaboration, thereby enabling them to
work smarter rather than harder.
The business use of Web 2.0 represents a new trend called "Business
2.0." Aside from being the name of a defunct magazine, Business 2.0
is about using the new web-based social networking applications
(many of which were originally created for personal use) in a way
that fosters teamwork, customer touches, and internal and external
collaboration in a low-cost seamless way.
Unfortunately, many businesses feel that Web 2.0 and social
networking are for the younger generation and a waste of time when
used by employees. However, once you understand the power of these
applications and how to use them in your company, you'll quickly
find that they can be invaluable tools to boost your bottom line.
Following is an overview of the best Business 2.0 tools.
Tools with business applicability
Personal use: Facebook enables you to connect and share
with the people in your life. Users can join networks organized by
city, workplace, school, and region. People can add "friends," send
messages, and update their personal profiles to notify "friends"
Business 2.0 use: Large organizations can connect all of
their employees, or members, via Facebook. Workers can search for
"friends" using certain criteria and send messages to one another
with news updates, ask questions, and so forth. Some are finding an
added advantage of using an internal, secure version of Facebook.
This has helped organizations to dramatically increase their
internal networking and collaboration.
Ask yourself: Could we use Facebook, or our own internal
version, to get people to collaborate at a higher level?
Personal use: Twitter is a microblogging service that
allows friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay
connected through the exchange of short, quick missives that use no
more than 140 characters per message. Senders can restrict delivery
to those in their circle. Users can receive updates via the Twitter
website or other social networking sights such as Facebook. Twitter
is used by many to answer the question: What are you doing?
Business 2.0 use: Business users could change that
question to: What problem are you trying to solve? Several
companies have used this as a fast way to solve problems. Hotels,
airlines, and airports are using Twitter to pitch services, travel
updates, and respond to travelers needs.
Ask yourself: Could we use Twitter to solve problems
faster with our organization or our customers?
Personal use: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that
anyone can use to find information on virtually any topic. Anyone
can edit the content as well.
Business 2.0 use: A large manufacturing company with
engineers in locations around the world increased problem solving
and collaboration by creating an internal, secure version of
Wikipedia for sharing information on parts and service offerings,
as well as repair and maintenance instructions. Retailers and
suppliers could create a version of Wikipedia to foster education
and training, as well as enhanced information sharing.
Ask yourself: Could we create an internal version of
Wikipedia to foster better information and knowledge sharing?
Personal use: YouTube is a video-sharing website where
users can upload, view, and share video clips. YouTube displays a
wide variety of user-generated video content, as well as movie
clips, product demonstrations, and commercials. Unregistered users
can watch the videos, while registered users can upload an
unlimited number of videos.
Business 2.0 use: Businesses are posting humorous
commercial videos to generate interest in their products with great
success. The more entertaining it is, the more people watch it.
Business partners could create a YouTube like channel for the
purpose of educating and training.
Ask Yourself: Could we enhance our marketing efforts as
well as general communication by using YouTube?
Personal use: Digg is a social news web site made for
people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet,
by submitting and accessing links and stories. Voting stories
thumbs up or a thumb down is the site's cornerstone function,
respectively called digging and burying.
Business 2.0 use: Many organizations have found this to be
a good way to track the most interesting advances in technology or
the most useful business news. Large organizations can create their
own internal version for sharing what employees consider to be the
most useful information.
Ask yourself: Could we use Digg, or our own internal
version, to get people to share their most interesting and valuable
web-based information with each other?
Personal use: Delicious is a social bookmarking web
service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. It
uses a non-hierarchical classification system in which users can
tag each of their bookmarks with freely chosen index terms.
Business 2.0 use: Business users can share their most
useful websites with co-workers or business partners. If a customer
purchases a product, sellers could share relevant bookmarks that
keep the customer coming back for more information and hopefully
Ask yourself: Could we use Delicious to share important
new web sites faster within our organization or with our customers?
Visual communications (Skype, AIM)
Personal use: Visual communications, unlike traditional
videoconferencing, uses your desktop, laptop, and soon your smart
phone to hold a quick, anytime, anywhere videoconference with one
or more other people. Travelers who must be away from home are
using their laptops in hotel rooms with broadband access and free
software such as Skype and AIM to communicate with family and
friends to enhance their personal connection.
Business 2.0 use: Businesses are discovering the power of
visual communications to enhance the connection with their sales
force, business partners, and customers.
Ask yourself: Could we use visual communications to
enhance communications internally and externally?
Purely Business 2.0 tools
Wikis are a collaborative web page or collection of web pages
designed to enable anyone to create a quick web page that enable
visitors to search the wiki's content and edit it in real time, as
well as view updates since their last visit. Wikis are often used
to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.
On a moderated wiki, wiki owners review comments before additions
to the main body of the topic. Additional features include calendar
sharing, live AV conferencing, RSS feeds, and more.
Ask yourself: Could we use wikis to enhance internal and
LinkedIn is a business-oriented professional networking website for
exchanging information, ideas, and opportunities. There are more
than 35 million registered users spanning 170 industries actively
networking with each other. For example, large insurance companies
use LinkedIn to foster networking with their independent sales
representatives. HR professionals from all over the world could use
LinkedIn to share best practices.
Ask Yourself: Could we use LinkedIn to expand our
organizational network for enhanced knowledge sharing?
Cloud Computing and Software as a Service
In Cloud Computing, some or all of the storage, software, IT
processes, and data center facilities you use can exist on your
provider's server, which is maintained and cared for by your
provider, giving you 24/7 access from any device anywhere. The cost
of upgrading hardware and software, maintenance, and associated IT
labor costs can be dramatically reduced or eliminated.
Currently, the ideal organization would be any size company that's
facing big investments in computing and communications
infrastructure. For example, Amazon.com can give you an entire
e-commerce back end. Software as a Service (SaaS) such as
SalesForce.com has a CRM package; SciQuest has a spend management
package; and Google, Microsoft, and others have a suite of
Ask yourself: Could we use cloud computing and SaaS
software as a service to streamline our IT needs?
Gain a new competitive advantage
By reframing the use of social networking technology, companies can
increase communication, collaboration, problem solving, and
competitive advantage with little cost. Remember, many of these
tools are free or nearly free, making them accessible to even the
smallest of businesses.
Therefore, the sooner you embrace Business 2.0 and put it to work
for you, the faster you can penetrate new markets and win the
lion's share of business.
Daniel Burrus isfounder and CEO of Burrus
Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global
advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better
understand how technological, social, and business forces are
converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He also is
the author of six books, including the highly acclaimed
Technotrends. The New York Times has referred to Daniel
Burrus as one of America's top three business gurus.