I've been using the Internet since the early '90s. I remember when it was a novelty to use a browser, let alone actually display images in a web page. I'm on web version 6.5, so I'm a bit of an old grump when it comes to the whole "Web 2.0 thing".
That said, I'm actually starting to see the 'truth' behind the Web 2.0 hype. It's only recently started to rear its ugly head, but it's out there.
For quite a while now teenagers have been using Myspace, Bebo, and Facebook to vent their emotions and hormones and these sites have launched several successful music careers.
More recently us grown-ups have been using these kinds of sites to keep in touch with friends and colleagues, reconnect with old acquaintances and network with other professionals in our fields of expertise.
Web logs, or blogs, may now number in the billions, but they are often the realm of the verbose, politicos, techies and the uninhibited. Even people accustomed to public speaking and with the ability to provide useful or insightful content can often find it difficult to maintain a steady stream to their publishing.
Twitter, pownce and the other micro-blogging sites have increased the ability for everyone and anyone to publish themselves. Anyone can write a blog entry if it's only 140 characters long. Although, it has to be said, writing a post in 140 characters is an art form of its own. The myriad of clients and ancillary applications make Twitter very accessible to all kinds of user and all kinds of use.
Social networking sites, blogs and micro-blogs are now the daily staple of a lot of internet users, whether they realise it or not. Businesses are starting to see the benefit of using these applications to connect more directly and immediately with their customers and asking their IT and new media providers to add them to their web sites and applications.
Like it or not, Web 2.0 and social networking is a part of every day life and will continue to expand from the purely social to more commercial applications.
So how will new media agencies meet the challenge of creating Web 2.0 applications for their clients?
For most new media agencies that provide any kind of content management system or bespoke web application to their clients, the technical side of providing these kinds of applications will not be a great hardship.
The biggest challenge will be managing the client's expectations. Web 2.0 is not a magic bullet that will instantly make them more popular or sell more units. It can have the opposite effect if past and current customers latch on to the company's new openness and vent frustrations and complaints in the very public eye. It might even be, as is the case of one site 'revamp' I can think of, that the client's user-base are just not interested in their existing services being "Web Two Point Oh'd" or any of that "social networking malarky".
This is an aspect of Web 2.0 that media companies should ensure that their clients are aware of. Integrating Web 2.0 applications is only for a business that is aware and prepared for the good, bad and indifferent feedback that will come their way. If they are prepared, then they should be ready and willing to respond to and make appropriate changes to their business processes based on this feedback.
Maintaining Web 2.0 output can be very time consuming. Once a company or a person starts building a network they must maintain a reasonable flow of useful information if they want to maintain and develop that network. Blogs provided an alternative to the traditional static news and press release sections to a site, but need to be updated much more regularly than normal news, as well as ensuring that any comments are replied to in a timely fashion. If forums are to be included then they need to be monitored for posts and inappropriate content, as well as responding to existing posts and making new posts. Twitter accounts need to be watched for new followers and replies and updated with appropriate content throughout every working day.
While any media agency with a technical skill base can build and integrate with Web 2.0, it will only be those that can communicate to their clients the necessity to apply sufficient resources and set up business processes to manage their new Web 2.0 offering that will build successful applications.