In case you didn’t notice, Google recently launched an interesting, and potentially disruptive new product called Sidewiki. Currently for Firefox and Microsoft Explorer, Sidewiki allows anyone to post comments on any webpage, anytime.
Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang, in a recent post, “Google’s Sidewiki Shifts Power to Consumers–Away From Corporate Websites,” writes about this development as part of a larger Google strategy to “envelop” the web with a stealth social web strategy to compete with Facebook and other social networks.
When the Entire Web Becomes Social
What’s even more interesting for me than Google’s social strategy though (although that’s obviously really important), are the Marketing implications of Sidewiki. What happens when every page of the entire web becomes social? Let’s start with your brand or corporate web site: It will become social whether you want it to or not.
Leading edge companies have enabled their web sites to be part of the “conversation,” by encouraging comments, user generated content, etc. and encouraging an on-going dialogue with consumers. However, many have not, and their corporate web sites are often bastions of protected spin and uni-directional marketing speak.
Sidewiki creates the opportunity for anyone to leave comments or content on any page at any time, right on the side of your website—whether you like it or not. Companies which have not, heretofore, been social, will be social by virtue of Sidewiki. To be clear, Sidewiki is almost nowhere to be found in action at the moment, but it’s now enabled and coming—and the only question is how fast and with what impact…
Implications for Marketers
Now’s the right time for CMO’s to be thinking about where Sidewiki might lead—as yet another conversational stream that invites participatory marketing and new angles for Marketers to compete on.
Defensive Marketing – At a minimum, Sidewiki raises the stakes for monitoring your website. It’s another conversational stream that needs to be monitored—or else. Brands which have elected not to participate in the social web will soon have to monitor their websites virtually 24/7 to understand comments and react in real time—even if they haven’t enabled anyone to comment. Imagine a comment right next to the United Airlines web site with a link to the now (in)famous YouTube “Broken Guitar” video…
Offensive Marketing – Sidewiki opens up some interesting possibilities for conversing with consumers. Your target consumers are going to your competitor’s web site and many others as well. What’s to prevent your brand from using Sidewiki to talk to them? A few possibilities:
- Challenge Your Competition – In the future, if you don’t agree with competitors claims or want to challenge the efficacy of their product, why not use Sidewiki to point this out to consumers? Sidewiki enables you to comment on their website—right next to their web site—whether they want you to or not.
- Participate in Sidewiki Conversations – Yet another opportunity is to participate in any side conversations on your site. Respond to comments, add your perspective, challenge untruths, and give a real “voice” to your brand that humanizes and differentiates it. Sidewiki will be another stream to leverage in your conversational marketing mix.
- Market from Complementary Websites – Another potential opportunity is to identify brand websites or pages whose equity or products are complementary to yours. Offer suggestions, relevant content, or wikis that encourage complementary website visitors to visit your site or download a wiki and engage with your brand.
- Direct Consumers to 3rd Party Content – Not every use of Sidewiki would need to direct consumers to your website. Instead, you could encourage target consumers to visit 3rd party sites which provide relevant content and perspective which you think they would be interested in—even if they’re still just prospects. Consumers appreciate and value brands that put their interests first.
And as I discussed in a previous blog post, “How the Future Social Web Will Transform Marketing,” Sidewiki will likely eventually also enable you to filter Sidewiki comments by people in your social graph–providing even more credence and power to this tool.
It should go without saying, but a key to doing anything with Sidewiki is transparency. It has to be clear that your brand is the one engaging in conversation on Sidewiki.
Beyond this, the key point is this: Sidewiki will give you another conversation based web channel to target and communicate with consumers, using any page on the web, at any time, to do so.
Is Sidewiki in Your Future?
Sidewiki is new and unproven. But so was Google search a few years ago. As was Facebook, Digg, etc. Need I go on? Sidewiki is another example of how the web continues to morph and evolve, particularly in the area of social media. These changes reinforce the need for Marketers to fully embrace the conversational opportunities on the web, and increasingly put companies which don’t on the defensive.
What other marketing opportunities do you see Sidewiki creating for brands in the future?