“People have the power.”
Web 2.0 is not a so much a technological revolution as a cultural one. Such is the power of the people or as we marketers refer to it, critical mass. The irony and challenge is that 2.0 marketing success will be predicated upon dividing this mass and making sense of the pieces. Segmentation, clustering, behavioral targeting, targeted content, whatever you want to call it and wherever you want to do it (ad side, site side or both) will only be successful if you understand the goals of each segment and meet these goals with relevance.
So how do we embrace Web 2.0 and deliver relevance? First we must understand that relevance means different things to different people. From search to social, B2B to B2C at its core it is important to keep in mind this revolution is about ceding power to the people by enabling them to control, create or define their digital experiences. In effect, users will be (and are) creating relevant experiences for themselves. If we accept this, then it means that we must rethink how we define online user experience. One thing I’ve begun to believe and evangelize is that in this evolution of the commercial web a static environment will not be able to provide the kind of optimized relevancy businesses will demand and marketers will need to deliver. Advertisers and businesses will need to dynamically optimize ad and content delivery based on segmentation.
There is also another 2.0 force at work within user experience that will begin to have greater impact as users define their experiences and marketers define their targeting. That force is user expectations. Marketers and businesses will need to exceed expectations at every touch-point. But how can this be accomplished when the very definitions and expectations are changing in the minds of users?
The changing use of digital media has been met with the tools will help define new expectations within the three dimensions of user, device and application. Most important is that these tools not only help exceed expectations they can also create more relevant experiences. The keys as always will be to observe your audience, listen to your customers and test, test, test.
The iPod is a classic and a fascinating case study of how the evolution of expectations and experiences can drive success. A key reason the iPod was successful at launch was that the size and capabilities of the iPod were beyond consumer expectations. There was nothing really comparable in the market. However, that was only half of what was needed for the iPod to succeed. The iPod was incredibly easy and fun to use (iTunes). Also, it was a dynamic experience. The user, based on their preferences modified the content. And since the user controlled content, the device was always relevant.
I’d argue there is no device more relevant to this day and age then the iPod. Apple neither invented the mp3 player nor the portable music player. Heck, there were quite a few portable mp3 players prior to the iPod. However next to the iPod these others became irrelevant.
How can you protect your digital business from becoming irrelevant? Every company can begin to look at their digital assets and ask a few questions. Do we exceed user expectations of what is possible within our digital business offerings? Are our digital assets simple and easy to use? Is the content we provide being defined by the user in order to ensure relevance?
Very few companies can answer yes to any of these questions at the moment let alone all three. Success however will be determined by the speed at which companies and marketers are able to release their own iPod. Maybe with a little Patti Smith loaded in it too.