From wikis to blogs and beyond, here are 10 tips culled from the experts to help you get started building a more dynamic Web site and jumping into Web 2.0.
With all the hype over Web 2.0, it's hard to figure out a solid initial strategy to make a corporate Web site more dynamic. Here are our top 10 tips, taken from leading experts and IT managers who already have paved the way. These will help you get your Web 2.0 feet wet and understand the productivity, power, and problems with the genre.
Start a blog with WordPress or TypePad
Both sites offer free hosting and simple tools that can take just a few minutes to learn. Both also sell a corporate version of their blogging software (TypePad's is called Movable Type) that can be run from inside a corporate firewall, should that be of concern.
All blogging software allows for simple creation of Really Simple Syndication data feeds that can be used to keep track of new content and used by collaborative teams to keep each other current with new postings to the site.
David Meerman Scott, whose latest book is called The New Rules of Marketing And PR (Wiley, 2007), talks about why RSS is so important: "RSS is my preferred method in my work tracking markets, companies, and ideas," he says. "Having the information come to me in my browser as an RSS feed is just so much easier than in the days when I had to go looking for it myself. And it also bypasses the increasingly crowded and annoying e-mail channel, too."
Start a wiki as your intranet or extranet
Wikis are Web sites that are easily editable by users, who can change pages and upload their own content. There are free hosting sites such as WetPaint.com, and Jive Software's Clearspace has a hosted version that is free for up to five users and $29 per user per year for larger-scale implementations, with an option to install the software on your own servers.
"Blogs and wikis are pretty good points of entrance because they are community driven and lightweight," says Eric Raarup, the VP of IT strategy and planning for developer Inetium. "Today's users are creating their own content, responding to content they see on discussion boards, uploading their own documents; that is all part of being in communities of interest." And Scott says "a wiki works well for many organizations as a way to show potential customers that there is a vibrant community of people using their products or services."
A great example of this is what is happening with Regence, the largest health insurer in the Pacific Northwest/Mountain State region with Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in four states. Regence established last year a series of moderated discussion forums covering topics such as parenting, nutrition, and grief issues.
"We have tapped into Jive technology to involve our members in being active in their own care," says Will McKinney, who is VP of consumer directed health Systems for Regence in Portland, Ore. The company also uses its Interwoven content management system to maintain a series of "live journals" or stories written by real people, using their own names and talking about issues like weight loss, for example. The company also has a team of in-house content editors who travel throughout the region and videotape members' stories to post on the member Web site.
"We want our members to be engaged and talking among themselves," says McKinney. "Our theme is to reach out to the entire community, involve people beyond chronic diagnoses. It helps to ask the doctor a few questions and make sure they understand your needs. The interest, response, and speed of acceptance happened more quickly that I had thought. Our customers are very anxious to talk and post their thoughts."
"Wikis can aggregate things for internal consumption very nicely," says David O'Berry, the director of IT for the South Carolina Department of Probation. "They can be used to raise awareness within an organization and help synthesize business knowledge for our subject matter experts."
"Clearspace can be deployed both inside and outside a corporate firewall," says David Hersh, the CEO of Jive. "It can be used to share ideas and show best corporate practices, and establish communities. We provide a mechanism for organizations who want to have its employees and its customers collaborate. We also have a single architecture and a unified way to start blogs, wikis, and podcasts all at once."
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