The World Wide Web has revolutionized the economy and impacted the majority of the world’s population within in the last ten to fifteen years. Today the Web is not only a resource, for a growing percentage of the population, it is the way we do business. The tools and uses of the Internet are evolving from static, HTML Web pages to interactive, user-driven Web experiences.
Since the Web was created in 1989 and on into the late nineties, businesses only had basic HTML Web sites to relay information to consumers, with little opportunity for rich or user-generated content that marks today’s most popular and useful sites. Web sites were nothing more than online brochures and business cards. Through the evolution of Web development and spread of Internet popularity, Web sites have grown into interactive, social outlets that provide not only rich content (such as video or interactive interfaces), but user-generated content, where Web site users actually create communities and provide content that could never be built by a single organization. Today, interactivity is driving the market and helping to shape the next generation of the Web.
A term heard more and more, Web 2.0 is being used to describe the next generation. In 2004, Tim O’Reily coined the term Web 2.0 as the business revolution of the computer industry, and it has come to be a general term used to embody interactive user interfaces, rich content, online social networking, and user-generated content. Although it sounds like a huge overhaul is in store for the Web, there isn’t a particular process in place to transform it. In fact, Web 2.0 isn’t an object that can be created. It is actually a perception of the direction the Web is heading. Web 2.0 is a new outlook where interaction is key, collaboration is mandatory, and developers are busily working to turn lackluster Web sites into social arenas. The Web is being transformed into a resource where Web surfers and professionals can combine knowledge and experiences to bring value to businesses and every other Internet user.
The following seven statistics reinforce that marketers should be planning to implement interactive Web site tools in the future:
1. 77% of the United States population is online (Harris Interactive) This basic statistic is where it all starts – nearly everyone that an organization might be interested in reaching is using the Web… and usually extensively. The excuse of “my clients do not use the Web” no longer exists for not having a good Web site.
2. 30% of the online population read blogs, about 50 million (ClickZ.com) This new trend involves two of the phrases we used above when describing Web 2.0 – social networking and user-generated content. Imagine a newspaper where you could engage in a discussion with fellow readers about any interesting articles — that is blogging, and it will continue to grow rapidly. As with most of the technologies that are discussed here, the good news is that the technology of creating a blog is easy, although it still requires smart, dedicated people to generate the initial content.
3. 45% of active Web users are members of a social networking site (Nielsen-NetRatings) Social networking Web sites focus on building communities of people who share interests using the Web site itself as the vehicle for communications. A long list of such sites has popped up recently, many of which have a huge number of members. People love to interact with others, and the Web’s popularity has a lot to do with this. Business owners can use this trend in a number of creative and inexpensive ways to market their own products.
4. 38.4 million people visited MySpace.com in 2006, a 367% increase from the previous year (Nielsen-NetRatings) This site has had the most prominent growth in unique users from 2006 to 2007. MySpace.com, which originally focused on young adults, has rapidly become a business networking gateway. Ideas streaming from general social networking sites have helped sprout a string of new sites focused solely on business networking like LinkedIn, Ryze, and Tribe.net.
5. 54% of US Internet users watched online videos in 2006 (AP-AOL Video) Fifty percent of the US population is expected to watch online video advertising by next year, meaning that 155.2 million people will be exposed to online advertising by 2008. Businesses are projecting growth to $775 million in online advertising spending. The trend is expected to continuously skyrocket to a staggering $4.3 billion by 2011(B2B Marketing). Once again, the technology behind this is easy and inexpensive to deploy, so there is no reason for a Web marketer with good, relevant video content not to share it with the world.
6. 17 million US Internet users downloaded Podcasts in 2006(Pew Internet) Although this technology originally derived from the Apple’s IPOD MP3 player, it is not necessary to have one to listen to a Podcast or create one. In fact, producing podcasts integrated with RSS keeps listeners up-to-date with the latest audio releases from radio spots to online lectures. For marketers, the technology is inexpensive and easy to manage making it simple to turn ideas into podcasts.
7. 63% of consumer product marketers, 65% of media and communications marketers, 37% of retail marketers, 37% of financial services marketers and 38% of equipment and tech marketers currently use or are planning to use RSS within the next 12 months (Rok Hrastnik) RSS has the highest value among Web 2.0 technologies, mostly because it integrates with a majority of other interactive tools and because it requires virtually no upkeep. Not only is it a great way to gain publicity for news articles, press releases, events, but it is also keeps Internet users up to speed with podcasts, blogs, and online videos. Making a list of articles or events RSS-compatible is quick and requires hardly any ongoing maintenance, therefore making it a procedure that 100% of marketers should be exploring.
These tools are quickly becoming the cornerstones of online marketing plans. Interactive user interfaces, rich content, online social networking and user-generated content will be essential tools for online marketing growth in the near future.