What’s Web 2.0? And things to consider before getting caught in the hype.

If you’re like me, maybe you’ve heard the term “Web 2.0” a few times in passing, and while you may not know exactly what it means, the context usually allows you to continue in conversation without letting on that the real meaning of this buzz word is not exactly clear. Well no more!

The basic concept is really simple, and while one can certainly could have a far lengthier discussion of the term’s genesis and all sorts of other details, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. After reading What’s Web 2.0 and Web Squared: Web 2.0 five years on I decided to highlight the most important and relevant aspects of Web 2.0.

In 140 characters or less here’s what you need to know:

Web 2.0 is interactive, not bound by physical location, open and constantly changing and adapting; The more people participating the better the result, learning to meet and anticipate needs; Views those you serve and work with as collaborators.

Anytime the web is used in those ways, to meet those goals, it’s Web 2.0.  web 2.0

Social Software clearly falls into that category and if you are thinking of getting out there and representing yourself or your organization through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin or anything else there are several things you probably should consider first.

Reading an article in Information Outlook  titled Libraries and social media by B. M. Carson raised a lot of important legal issues (U.S. context) highlighting the importance of readings the terms and conditions of using the social media sites for advertising, as well as understanding the laws for your country regarding things like defamation, copyright, and privacy. One thing the article mentions which I’d like to explore further is summarized in this quote:

“A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Translation·. Go ahead and use social media in your libraries – but use them thoughtfully, implementing proper policies ahead of time to avoid problems in the future” (Carson, 2010).

While using social media to promote oneself as an individual I obviously don’t expect anyone to develop policy documents, however it’s important to have the goal in mind. If you intend to use certain online social applications for professional contexts, you want to make sure you are not using the app in unprofessional ways. This may mean you wont be sharing every funny picture of an animal you come across, and certainly means you don’t want to be ranting about personal problems.

When representing an organization the content shared, liked, retweeted etc. should be carefully considered and never haphazardly done.

It is very easy to sign up for these social software accounts but they often require a commitment of time and resources in order to be made useful and effective. It is better to have an active, relevant account, than one which is never used unless you only intended it to say the name and current contact information. I have an example from working with a government agency that decided to get Twitter.

It was a great idea, supported by all the seasonal staff, to be able to tweet messages about what was going on that day, what to look forward to, or historically relevant trivia! But when it was finally approved it was a very different creature. Tweets needed to be bi-lingual, with approval by the translation department, which could take up to a month depending on what was going on. Then, the Tweets would be administered elsewhere, by someone whose job description it must have fallen under.

The nature of this seasonal work meant things could change rapidly from day to day in regards to programming.  With budget constraints and staff requesting time off throughout the season it was hard to know more than a month in advance whether something was going to take place or not. There were a few staples and those are the tweets that got submitted in the end but the whole process was not really conducive of being open and adaptive, or learning to meet or anticipate needs. The tweets that did go out were very few and far between during the season, not to mention that when not in season no tweets whatsoever would be sent.

Reflecting on this experience it would seem that deeper thought should have been given to the adoption of Twitter for this particular organization. The theory certainly sounded like a great fit for promotion and community engagement, however the logistics of implementing falls flat. In an economy of do more with less it’s enticing to use free social application for promotion, especially when “everyone is doing it” however the effort to do social software right can easily become doing “less with more” if we aren’t mindful when choosing appropriate methods for marketing and outreach.

Reference

Carson, B.M. (2010, October-November). Libraries and social media. Information Outlook, 14(7), 9-12.

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