Lately, I’ve had a few more folks than normal ask me for help navigating web projects for their companies — either as a means to market to customers better or to improve internal communications.  Almost every time, the conversation moves to social media and new Web 2.0 technologies, and how to utilize them to achieve a business goal.

But there is certainly a fine line between clever and “huh?”  It is very, very easy for even the most crafty marketer to preside over a disaster.  I am not a skeptic, however.  You will be fine as long as you are clear on your goals and you maintain focus.

Here are my Top 7 Tips for getting started with Enterprise Web 2.0 in your company.  Some of them may be obvious to some of you, but all told if you can follow these tips, you can avoid the most common pitfalls.

1) Immerse yourself in new technology — The best way to know about new technology is to use it.  Better yet, become an avid user.  If you are about to scope out a customer-facing Web project especially in 2008, you had better spend a lot of time reading blogs, using technologies like RSS, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, etc.  Odds are, your web-savvy customers are and the trend is only on the upswing as Web 2.0 becomes more mainstream.  The real benefit here though is in knowing what to pull from in the consumer Web 2.0 world.

2) Educate yourself or talk regularly with someone who knows Web 2.0 — One of the great things about the explosion of content brought about by the Web is the rampant availability of examples and case studies.  A quick Google search of “Web 2.0 case studies” will land you plenty of examples that will help you brainstorm.  Similarly, there is an active community of Web 2.0 bloggers who cover the latest news & keep you on the cutting edge.  I also recommend Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop as a quick way to find the best resources quickly.  If you don’t have time for all of this, call a friend who can help you navigate all the noise.

3) Get laser-focused on your goals — Figure out the one or two business metrics you want to improve, and focus all your energy there.  It could be # of users, page views, leads, sales/revenue, % satisfied customers… whatever.  Just focus.  And when you have difficult trade-offs or decisions to make, always err on the side that gets you closer to your goals.  It seems simple, but it is very easy to lose focus in the heat of the battle.

4) Get laser-focused on your customers’ goals — The biggest Enterprise Web 2.0 disasters I’ve seen are cases where there is a gaping disconnect between the technology and the needs of the customer.  What do your customers want?  What drives their behavior?  And how will your site help them in a meaningful way.  If you apply social media to your business/customer… and not the other way around… you’ll be successful.  i.e. Do not build a Web 2.0 site without first asking a few questions… “Why would someone use the site repeatedly?  Is this better than what we already have?  How?”  I’d almost spend a half hour or so brainstorming & writing down fictitious user testimonials that you’d expect to read if your site proves to be a success.

5) Remember that Web 2.0 is multi-disciplinary — Effective Enterprise Web 2.0 projects bridge the gap between IT and either marketing or business operations.  So you really need excellence across both to be successful.  Great IT people & developers will work with you to define a project up-front, but will be flexible so you can add minor features or fix some usability issues to help you nail the project.  Great Web marketing & operations share the need for tracking metrics closely so things can be tweaked.  At minimum, you need to know one well & be able to empathize with the other to make the project a success.

6) Don’t assume bigger is better — While managing millions of marketing spend at Microsoft, I had one consistent terrible experience after another with large agencies.  We constantly quibbled over billing rates, whether or not the basics were “in scope”, etc.  And we rarely got the big agency’s “A-team”… instead we got other parts of the bell curve who we typically had to educate rather than work with as a strategic partner or advisor.  In general, I found our interests were rarely aligned.  I think you’ll find that smaller agencies are hungrier and more willing to do whatever it takes to make you successful, and you’ll always get their best effort.  We certainly did at Microsoft where it was feasible to do so.

7) Communicate clearly — Finally, I think it’s critical to make sure you are crisp with all your communications around a project like this.  If you aren’t crisp, you’ll have heartburn somewhere along the way.

  • Expectations — Make sure your team supports your effort.  Make sure you underpromise to your team and management, but let them know the range of outcomes.  Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses for something like this.  Make sure you have a good idea of what those around you — colleagues or vendors — can do.
  • Requirements — It is helpful to be as clear as you can with the people building your site.  Share everything with them — your goals, priorities, customer needs, your pet peeves, etc.  And be sure to update them as much as you can.  Technology people are very smart but they aren’t mindreaders… you have to put a premium on quality communication to get what you want.
  • Customer communications — Odds are your customers will be totally unfamiliar with your new site once you launch.  Optimize your launch around clearly communicating what you want your users to do and how they should go about it.  Clearly communicate the value they will get out of using your site appropriately.  Once they are used to it — and you have the metrics to prove it — then you can do bigger/better things, and you can go light on the tutorials/explanations.
  • Buzzwords —  Avoid them.  There are plenty of buzzwords in Web 2.0 — communities, crowdsourcing, collaborative filtering, social graph, semantic Web, etc.  Just don’t use the terms.  Explain what you want in plain language.  Others will understand you — at least those you want to work with.  Let the so-called experts determine what terms should be used to explain your success!

As always, I’m happy to help any friend or regular reader of this blog brainstorm — no obligation.  Just e-mail me anytime at or check out information on our Enterprise Web 2.0 consulting & development practice.