How to use online presence
The internet started out as a novelty. In the early years of the web, many companies and organisations set up pages and left it at that. However this had the same impact as a run of brochure prints. Once seen, websites with static, unchanging contents did not need to be read again.
As the web developed new capacity emerged. The second major step was content management systems, which enabled many people to ‘go into the site’ and change contents. Combined with databases, information capture and e-mail newsletters, dynamic information and online business became a distinct policy. In this regard, it is important to note that changing content on a programmed basis, as well as business functionality, drew people back to sites.
The third leap forward was the arrival of the social network. The social network allows consumers or stakeholders to see the brand in the context of its environment. In order to visualise this consider a town with houses, neighbourhoods and shops. People spend time at home alone, amongst friends in neighbourhoods and they go shopping. The social network approximately replicates the town. People can move around the web with the awareness of their social groups as well. If one member recommends or ‘likes’ an enterprise, others should theoretically follow, in much the same way a recommendation from a friend leads to a physical visit or call to an enterprise.
The fourth leap forward is in the process of occurring. Mobile internet currently replicates the desktop web on mobile platforms, with some geo-location aspects, however the mobile web will in the next few years reach the point where it allows mutual identification of individuals or enterprises.
To understand this, imagine receiving a message about a special from a coffee shop as you walk past it. You might also be walking through a shopping center and receive a notification that a friend is nearby.
Although there are serious reservations about privacy aspects of this form of interaction, it will become pervasive. Google has taken the first steps with Google Maps and their Glasses product. Facebook uses geo-location. Four Square is becoming more and more noticeable. It will be the responsibility of the web user to manage his or her levels of privacy with whatever resources and personal controls are available.
For now, the online strategy should consider dynamic web presence, online administrative processes, social networking and early mobile web.
Dynamic web presence must include a site which is regularly updated with news or offers. The site should have a mailing list, and the offers must be mailed. The list has to be by subscription to avoid penalties for spamming.
Online administrative processes can save costs and speed up the processes. Data capture, for instance, has been a function of paper forms to date. That can now be done with the web. Back-end processes can automate data processing and automatically send the data on to people who need it, be it managers or customers.
The social web should be used to place the enterprise or organisation in the context of its human environment. Not only can it be used as a tool to develop and maintain customer contact, but it can also be used as a service point to answer queries and begin the process of solving problems.
Finally, the archetypal web presence must be replicated for mobile platforms. This is immensely challenging. Aside from the technical aspect of the many different display characteristics of mobile devices. The company using a mobile platform also has to evolve its strategy to match the way its customers use the mobile web. Typically this will entail a reduction in the depth of information presented to the user.
The future of the web is far from settled or predictable yet. At present it is a rapidly evolving environment, however it the organisation or enterprise does have to be prepared and current in order to face the future and compete.