Are you collaborating?

The Human Capital Institute recently held a webinar titled "Collaborative Learning Technologies: Wiki's and Blogs and More, Oh My!" where they discussed how new web technologies are transforming the learning process and environment. Grant Ricketts and Ben Willis from Saba presented good information about how companies can take advantage of these new Web 2.0 technologies to train their workforce. As has been our theme lately, these technologies can, and should, be adapted for use in marketing as well. Of particular concern is blogging, but possibilities exist for utilizing wiki's and other user generated content to help branding and communicating with potential customers.

A few tidbits of information from the presentation jumped out, though. The first asserts that the US workforce has reached a "tech tipping point" where more than 50% of workers have grown up with technology and are savvy about its use. The other tidbit relates to what they termed "fingertip knowledge" and says that people don't want to wait for information, rather, they expect to find it immediately, and are looking to online resources first to find what they are looking for. These have huge implications for the future, and deploying strategies to take advantage of these trends now will better position your organization’s products and services with this tech savvy group down the road.

Web 2.0 technologies are often referred to as "user generated" or "collaborative" technologies. What Ricketts and Willis promoted for the learning environment, as mentioned earlier, is quite applicable to marketing HR solutions in the B2B market as well – particularly when it comes to blogging, and especially if your company has a recognized thought leader within your market space. How is this collaborative, you ask? Well, it's getting more than the marketing department involved in creating your message. Blogging also allows readers to comment on and offer their view on topics and issues addressed by the blogger (as long as you have the comments option on, and monitor them regularly). Another benefit to blogging lies in the additional branding this creates, as well as increased online exposure which often translates well in search engine rankings of which much has been discussed in this space recently. If your company does not currently have a blog, you should seriously consider getting one up and running as soon as possible.

Another collaborative technology gaining traction is the use of wiki's. According to Wikipedia a wiki is:

"...a type of Web site that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change some available content, sometimes without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative authoring."

While not widely used in the B2B marketing arena, we believe the time will soon be upon us where this technology will allow for a richer, more personal way to communicate with customers and develop prospects. Motorola has started their own wiki for their "Q" line of products (similar to Blackberries or Treo's) whereby users contribute to the wiki and increase the available knowledge about product use or help fix bugs. While many may not recognize this as marketing, at least not yet, the potential impact is great. Engaging users on this level can create a sense of ownership, and potential customers, especially the tech-savvy group, respond to the interactive nature of this method which can subtly push them towards the product.

Technology is moving quickly, and astute marketers are deploying these new methods and technologies to their advantage (think SEO and Marketing PR). Collaborative technologies offer great potential to marketers, and while not all may be suitable for your organization, some are and if you don't consider them in the near future, be assured your competition will.