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Lessons From WOM-COMM: The Semantic Web is Coming; It’s Time to Get with the Program

At NST, we’ve been at the forefront of Web development and design for many years. In fact, we often joke that we’ve been doing “social media” before the term even existed with the development of e-communities like the WD-40 Fan Club and Chicken of the Sea’s Mermaid Club. But we — like many companies worldwide — are now faced with the reality that what we built even a few years ago just will no longer cut it. We’re having to educate our clients on the fact that the Web is constantly evolving. You can’t build a Web site, then walk away and ignore it. While the tools we used in the past were appropriate for the time, they no longer work in today’s environment. “The site is not built in a Web 2.0” format is something that we’ve found ourselves saying often. But what exactly does “Web 2.0” mean?

Last week’s WOM-COMM class touched on this briefly, sparking the writing of this post. Joel Warady, principal at Joel Warady Group, gave the following outline:

Web 1.0
•    Static Web sites
•    One-way communication
•    Corporate voice
Web 2.0 (Social)
•    Interactive
•    Two-way dialogue
•    Everyone is talking
•    Collaborative
Web 3.0
•    Real time information quicker
•    Semantic computing – computers thinking and making decisions with each other

If you are like me the thought of computers “thinking,” as Warady described is somewhat frightening. There are many views of what Web 3.0 might look like, and — believe it or not — Web 3.0 has been talked about as early as 2001 when a story appeared in Scientific American that described a world in which software “agents” perform Web-based tasks typically left to humans. Some envision it as a place where machines can read Web pages much like people. “Intelligent applications” and “machine-based learning and reasoning” are some of the terms people use to discuss a Web 3.0 world. While Web 3.0 is coming, we are finding many Web sites are still struggling to keep up with Web 2.0.

Like Web 3.0, the definition of Web 2.0 is also varied, however, the term Web 2.0 generally refers to almost any site, service or technology that promotes sharing or collaboration. Here are some questions to get you thinking about whether or not your site fits with current Web 2.0 platforms (NOTE: I’m not a developer – so here are some questions for the layperson. Our Interactive Department can speak more to the technologies):

  1. Is it dynamic, i.e. does your home page change often? Content management systems make it easier than ever to change content often, without the help of a developer.
  2. Is it two-way, allowing your audience to talk to you (or each other), not just the other way around? Features that allow comments, ratings or reviews are ways to allow for two-way communication and interactivity.
  3. Is it social/shareable? Can the information on your site be easily shared on other social networks or by RSS feed?
  4. Is it easily searchable by keyword?
  5. Does it incorporate user-generated content?
  6. Does your site make use of video and audio?
  7. Is your site properly optimized for your keywords?
  8. Are you tracking trend topics and sentiment data on your site to determine what areas are most used/most popular? Are you using this data?
  9. Are you giving people something to talk about, i.e. things that encourage conversations, things to share, events, contests, etc.
  10. Are you driving traffic to your site through outreach to influentials? Do you know who is influential to your brand online?

Web 3.0 is coming. Web 2.0 is here, and we can’t stress enough the importance of remaining relevant in the ever-changing Web world. NST recommends a regular audit of your site to make sure you don’t get left behind.

WOM-COMM is a certificate program by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

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