Sunday, March 16, 2008

Confessions of a Web 2.0 Spectator

The Web 2.0 world is here. Any of us working in the web space hear this all the time. The way people interact with information on the web has changed. People are sharing more information, consuming what others are sharing and commenting on it. People are now in control like never before. As companies like HP make changes in their web experience to adapt to this change and pioneer new web opportunities, it makes me wonder – how will different types of users benefit from this change? Do all users realize they will benefit from this? Or, are there some that need to be enticed?
Is the Web 2.0 world for everyone? I’m a 35 year old female who works on the website of a high-tech company. I interact with the web constantly both in my personal and professional life. I’m one of those people that shops online all the time and prefer it to going to brick and mortar stores whenever possible. I enjoy reading blogs on topics of interest. I read all my news online and haven’t read a newspaper in years. I upload digital pictures and share them with friends and family weekly. I visit regularly. I download music from iTunes to listen to on my iPod. I consider myself very web savvy. But I feel like I have a deep, dark secret and here it is: Even for sites I visit and enjoy reading regularly, I never post. I enjoy customer reviews of products and they play a large part in my making a purchase decision but I admit I don’t recall ever writing one. I visit because I am interested in seeing what news stories other readers think are the most worthy but I never “digg” anything myself. I’m what used to be called a “Lurker”. Do people still use that term? I’m not there for the social interaction. I’m not interested in people reading my witty comments and I’m particularly not interested in engaging in a dialogue with someone I don’t know on a topic. But I am interested in reading what other people have to say on certain topics. I’m interested in what other people think of products they own. And I’m interested in what people have discovered about those products.
I was recently chatting with someone about my current practice of photo sharing. I use a basic photo sharing site where I upload my photos regularly, buy prints and then send an invitation to my small group of family and friends to view them and buy prints if they wish. But I have been told that this makes me somewhat archaic and old-fashioned. I’m not Web 2.0. I’m not hip. I’ve been told I must get on Flickr. But here is my question: Why?? The site I currently use meets all my needs. I buy prints to create my scrapbook pages. My children’s grandparents can view and buy pictures of them. The additional functionality that Flickr offers doesn’t interest me. I’m not interested in broadcasting pictures from my vacation to the world nor does it sound appealing to have anyone I don’t know comment on them. It actually sounds creepy to me to have anyone I don’t know view pictures of my children. Is this because of my age? Am I too old for Web 2.0 fun? Or could this be a personality trait of mine? Whatever the case, I’m certainly not alone.
While reading an article titled “Social Technographics” from Charlene Li at Forrester, I see I’m in good company. Charlene breaks the web population into six categories. At the top of the social ladder are Creators - those who publish blogs, upload videos and run their own web pages. Creators represent only 13% of the population. At the other end of the social participation ladder on the web are the Spectators who are represented by 33% of the adult online population. This group passively reads blogs, listens to podcasts and watches videos.
It looks like I’m falling right where would be expected based on my age. Comparing Gen Y to Gen X, Charlene Li states the following “While significantly fewer members of Gen X are at the top of the participation ladder, that four out of 10 are already using social media as Spectators means that they are well positioned to take the next step”. (If you don’t know what Gen Y and Gen X are: From Wikipedia: Generation Y was born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Generation X was born approximately between 1961 and 1981).
My thought is that for many types of Web 2.0 functionality, there is something for everyone. For the person who wouldn’t post a customer review of a product, they will likely still benefit from seeing how customers rate our products when making a purchase decision. These are the types of Web 2.0 functions that I think will be most useful and widely used on (with “used” meaning both created and consumed).
Another example would be to allow customers to share in HP’s learn and use portion of the site. What things have customers learned about our products through usage that would be valuable to other customers? The person who has discovered that a particular setting on one of our cameras drastically improves the picture quality in certain situations. The person that has through trial and error discovered how to more successfully print a certain type of document using one of our printers. These could be posted in text comments or by uploading a video demonstration. Posting these types of comments/videos may not be for everyone. But many people will post. And many many more will benefit from them doing so.
In our Web 2.0 activities on, what do we do with the people who aren’t interested or perhaps just don’t yet know they would be interested in 2.0 functionality? Do we try to convert them? Push our Web 2.0 functionality in the hopes that everyone will eventually realize it is fun and useful for them? Or do we ignore them? Dive head first into the Web 2.0 world for the Creators only? Or, do we simply invite them? Provide Web 2.0 functionality for those that want it and have plenty of other useful content for those that decide they don’t.
If we can provide an engaging way for people to learn about HP’s products from other customers, anyone who is researching our products on the web can find value in it not only those who consider themselves Web 2.0.
So I will continue to enjoy the new face of the 2.0 web and all the new social content now available to me. Although I suspect I will continue to enjoy it passively as a Spectator. But who knows. I did write this blog. Perhaps there is hope for me yet.


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