There is a lot of talk about Web 2.0, social networking and how these might work in a business environment. We have blogs, podcasts, video blogs, Wikis (Think Workspaces) and simple syndication tools that make it easier than ever to create and publish content. Well, just go the cisco.com and see what they unveiled on October 2nd.
At first, it might look like any other site, but just play around with it and you will notice a lot of differences. First, there are a number of corporate bloggers talking about products. There is a Networking Professionals Connection where customers, users and cisco members can post questions, share experiences and comment on a variety of products. They are also segmented into various market groups like enterprise, soho, small/medium business so that you can collaborate with like-minded folks.
In another section, Ask the Experts, they identify various Cisco experts who will be available for questions for two week periods of time. There is like 40 people listed where you can read a track of Q&As they’ve been involved in and two who are in the hotseat for two weeks.
Another cool thing they have done is they have simplified their logo. Notice the logo in the upper left corner and see how different it is from their usual logo? Why would they do that? Well they have decided that mobile media has a place in their plans and knew that their usual logo wouldn’t look so good, so they changed it. Members of the community can now have content delivered to their mobile phones. Very cool!
There are a couple of new features that I’m not crazy about. One is their idea of Video Data Sheets. I looked at a couple of them and was not impressed. It seemed like the presenter was reading a paper; very stiff and not engaging. Great opportunity and maybe they should look at some video bloggers to see how to improve them.
Now maybe you are asking yourself, why should I care or what’s in it for me? Well the first thing is that there is a lot of hype about Web 2.0 and it’s potential, and this is the first company who shows the possibilities. You might also think that if you had their budget, you could do some of these things; true, but you would be mistaken to assume that these capabilities equal big costs. Cisco has to plan for many people using their site.
Many of the tools that they use are available very reasonably. For example, one of the favorite blogging packages is WordPress, which is free. There are also free or reasonable packages for Wikis from companies like Wikia, Wetpaint, or Socialtext.
So, if the tools are reasonable, what are the big issues? The biggest is how would this fit into my business, and will my customers participate in conversations about our products and services? Another question is what might this look like?
You know your customers, but if they are like most customers, they want to talk if only to complain. Give them an opportunity to be heard, and they’ll more than likely stop complaining and start advocating. Now as to the question of what it might look like, well here is where the Cisco site can give you ideas.