Web 2.0, social networking, and user generated content are some of the hottest buzzwords being heard in marketing circles today. Over the last couple of years, a number of relatively new websites soared in popularity and became household names. Wikipedia, YouTubeand MySpace are three examples. A whole host of other websites have adapted, emulated and in some cases blatantly copied the example set by these trend setters to collectively pull us into the Web 2.0 era.
Unlike many buzzwords, Web 2.0, social networking and user generated content are actually meaningful, useful and here to stay. They signify the eclipse of the static website as we knew it and the emergence of dynamic, ever-growing interactive websites.
The term was coined by O’Reilly media back in 2004 to describe the second generation of websites that are interactive and enable collaboration amongst and with users.
Unlike “Web 1.0” websites, which were static sites controlled fully by the website owners, Web 2.0 sites allow users to add and edit content to the site. A simple example is an online blogwhere the owner can write articles and invite visitors to post comments and questions.
The great thing about marketing via blogs is that regular visitors develop a sense of trust and community and will share information and links by posting comments. These links can bring quality traffic and can also result in higher rankings by increasing the inbound link count.
MySpace, Orkut, Hi 5 and numerous other websites have been created with the sole aim of enabling visitors to network with each other. Social networking started simply in the form of online dating sites where users could log in, create a personal profile with their details and browse other users’ profiles.
Today social networking follows more of an open-door concept where anyone can access, view, interact, link to, comment on and search for anyone else’s profile. These sites may be truly generic, like MySpace, or may be focused on specific topics such as alumni forums or localadvertising professionals networks.
Once again, the benefit for marketers arises from the high traffic volumes and links that can be gained from popular profiles on such sites.
User Generated Content
Comments, blog posts, personal profiles, uploaded videos, Wikis etc all fall under the umbrella of user generated content or UGC. This is content that is created and controlled by individuals who have often no affiliation with the website other than the fact that they choose to contribute to it in some way or the other.
Websites such as Wikipedia, Digg and YouTube have all grown in popularity solely owing to addition, deletion and modification of user generated content on them.
Any given website can only grow from within a limited amount, due to the limited resources of its creators. However, when a website opens its doors to the World Wide Web and allows absolutely anyone to contribute, the amount of content that can be generated is potentially colossal. This of course, has a direct benefit for search ranking as well as traffic volumes to the site.