Web 2.0 - What's The Big Deal?

Read More: Marketing  |  Mindset  |  Personal Development

Warning: the next few paragraphs mention fish a lot. These aren’t real fish, but are part of a metaphor. Please remember this. Web 2.0 is not generally about real fish.

Web 2.0 is a paradigm shift – it’s a rewriting of the rules of the game. And when the rules change, all players ‘go back to zero’. So if you’re a big fish in the pond of business that is Web 1.0, well, when the paradigm shifts, you’re not the big fish anymore. 

So who does get to be the big fish after the paradigm change? It’s generally the small fish that was struggling on the edge of the Web 1.0 pond, struggling because it was trying to play by different rules – the rules that define the new paradigm.

Why is this relevant? Well, there’s a widely-held perspective that you don’t have to worry about the small fish in your pond if you are one of the bigger fish, that they just can’t compete. Until the rules change. And who drives the change of rules? Generally it’s the little fish.

Under Web 1.0 the rules about sales & marketing were pretty much the same as the rules were before the Web came along. The Web was used by traditional sales & marketing functions as just another channel. I certainly heard phrases such as ‘your web site is simply your brochure or catalogue, but on line’.

It was this very connectivity that the Web enabled, that sowed the seeds for Web 2.0. Under Web 1.0 the information flow was generally 1 way, from company to marketplace. After a while some web sites provided the opportunity for people to leave comments – feedback – that could also be read by other visitors. And before long there were all manner of web sites that served as a review system – prospective customers could search these web sites for reviews about almost anything they were considering buying, and this would influence their buying decision. This was the beginning of the end of traditional approaches to sales & marketing.

At the time of writing – Feb 2009 – many sales & marketing professionals, perhaps aged 30 and up, would argue that traditional sales & marketing is still dominant – there are plenty of off-line sales & marketing activity. There’s plenty of evidence in my eyes that most corporate sales & marketing activity at the time of writing is basically the traditional model, not Web 2.0 at all. But to cling to this perception is to miss the point. 

It reminds me of the story of the man who lived in a village that had a large pond at it’s centre. Each day he would walk past the pond on his way to the village shop. Each day Life would be about its business in and on the pond. In one corner could be found a small number of lilies. For a while these lilies were simply not noticed. Each day they doubled in number, but covered such a small percentage of the area of the pond that the man just didn’t notice them. Then one day he did notice them. On the next day he noticed they were covering much more of the pond. He mentioned this to the village council later that day, which decided to do something about it. The next day they covered half the pond , were clearly a threat, but now it was too late… 

I see Web 2.0 as being like the pond lilies, and now traditional sales & marketing people are beginning to notice the existence of Web 2.0, it’s already too late to reverse the trend. 

Traditional sales & marketing is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet.

Why? Well, traditional sales & marketing is built on the assumption that the information flow and brand image of the company and its products is under the control of the sales & marketing function. It isn’t, and hasn’t been for some years.

Recent research is suggesting that just over 60% of buyers for many products and services research their purchase on the Web, even though they may then make the final purchase from a Main Street traditional store. The rise of sites such as Google, which make finding the right information so much quicker and easier, coupled with the ubiquitous access to the Web that people have – laptops and mobile phones – means that people are paying more attention to the views of other buyers and users in the market place.

Traditional channels to market are fragmenting, making life for sales & marketing functions more complex. And brand communications are no longer under their control. They’re generally not under any one’s control, but they are under the control of loose groups of consumers. These consumers restate, remix and then republish their version of what comes their way. When they agree and amplify your message it can be magical. When they don’t things can get ugly, and fast. 

So the only successful strategy in the future for sales & marketing functions is “about the fundamental paradox of giving up control  - you can’t control conversations that aren’t yours – and simultaneously gaining influence by becoming a respected member of the communities that matter to you.” (Dave Evans in Social Media Marketing: An Hour A Day) [Link to book on Amazon]

Now, none of this means that traditional ways of getting products and services to customers and end users need to disappear – far from it.

Back to Web 2.0 – I’ve not actually defined it yet – so what is it? Some call it the Read/Write web, others talk about social networking. It seems to me that Web 2.0 is all of these things, and also not just about business. Sites like Blogger.com and Squidoo.com make it easy for people to publish about anything they like – and they do – there is simply a staggering amount of stuff out there, growing at an accelerating rate. Sites like Digg.com and Delicious.com make it incredibly easy for people to indicate a like or dislike for a specific web page or site. Facebook and similar sites bring geographically and culturally diverse people together with a common interest in something – social networks. Technology such as RSS makes it easier to stay in touch with the opinions of your social network. 

Businesses might think they can come in and lay down the law so to speak about their products, services and values – and these communities will simply turn this effort on its head and focus on the negatives – exactly what Business was trying to avoid!

But Web 2.0 is not a threat to sales & marketing functions and professionals. It IS a threat to the traditional ways of looking at these functions. Web 2.0 offers new opportunities, and so we find ourselves in exciting times, for even as the World economy is hitting the buffers, mastering Web 2.0 could hugely mitigate the effects of this economic downturn.

So whether you want to be a small fish or a big fish, the rules of the game now are called Web 2.0. To survive the game all you have to do is play by the rules – even as you work to change them…

Good luck!





Martin Schmalenbach helps individuals and organisations make informed decisions about enhancing business performance. He has worked all over the world with all manner of individuals and organisations. Involved in MLM since 2001 he is the author of The Network Marketing Manifesto & Workbook. He lives in the south of the UK with his wife Tracy.

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About the Author: Martin Schmalenbach

Member Since: 01/31/2009

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Primary Web Site: http://www.martinschmalenbach.com


Wed 2.0 ....What's the Big Deal?

Hey Martin!

I totally see your persective here, but I still think some form of old school sales and marketing tactics are important in building a business. The reason--- I'm a direct outcome of that kind of off line marketing. I was someone who didn't own a computer and only used it for checking my email. ( I shutter to think! There are great prospects like me who would have no way of finding out about this industry unless someone advertised off line. It's a great article. It's about old dogs learning new tricks. Since I'm a musician, I'll put it like this, I own an ipod, but I still listen to my records, tapes, and CDs(everyone is important)!


Billy Anne Crews


Billy Anne Crews — Sat, 02/07/2009 - 6:54pm

Aah - Discussion Begins...!

Hi Billy Anne,

Thanks for sharing your perspective.

I actually agree with you - I wanted in part with this article to spark some discussion & exploration!

Have a great day!



Martin Schmalenbach — Sun, 02/08/2009 - 6:38am

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