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Web 2.0 brings business opportunities

Increasingly, companies in Asia are seeing benefits of adopting blogs, social networks and Wikis.

More companies in Asia are finding Web 2.0 technologies an important means to steer their businesses forward.

According to the ZDNet Asia IT Priorities 2008/09 survey, most organizations have already adopted, or plan to adopt, Web 2.0 technologies. The online survey polled 722 IT decision makers across the region.

The most common Web 2.0 tool deployed was blogs, where 32.7 percent of companies said they had implemented the technology. Social networking was second most popular at 26.2 percent, followed by Wikis at 26 percent.

A little over one-third, or 37 percent, of respondents have not adopted, or have no plans to adopt Web 2.0 technologies listed in the survey.

Andrew Milroy, infocomm technology research director at Frost & Sullivan, noted that some Asian countries were very advanced in their use of such technologies for business.

Do Web 2.0 right

A long term view is necessary when companies adopt Web 2.0 technologies. Here are some pointers:

•  Kick start a Web 2.0 campaign by setting clear objectives and keeping the target audience streamlined to maximize reach and results.

•  Constantly update blogs, podcasts and vidcasts to maintain the attention of the targeted audience.

•  Put a response mechanism in place to interact with the audience, and respond to comments. Companies that do not reply quickly will lose out on opportunities. Respond to the issue at hand and do not let emotions take over. There are cases, where corporate bloggers responded emotionally to negative comments, have spiraled into flame wars in the blogosphere.

•  Look at the big-picture view of Web2.0 technologies, especially linking these tools to search optimization features and search marketing.

•  Put in a KPI (key performance indicator) matrix to measure success of the Web 2.0 campaign after execution, including number of viewers and comments, and inbound links and the number of embedded views from external sites.

"There has been more conservatism among [Asian] business [in adopting Web 2.0]," Milroy told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. "However, Asian examples are emerging such as India's Tata Group with its TataForum.com. The company is engaging with customers and the public to obtain feedback and information relating to the Tata Nano, a small car that it is producing."

In Singapore, Steven Seek, managing director of JobsDB.com, said his company has enabled its job search engine function on some of its partner Web sites such as Streetdirectory.com and 88DB.com, to enhance its recruitment services and reach out to a wider audience.

"We also have a Facebook JobsDB group to increase our brand exposure and publicize our online job portal to job seekers," Seek said in an e-mail interview. Its group on Facebook, which anyone can join, enables the company to tap on the network of "passive job seekers" as well as to grow its brand online, he said.

"We are also in the midst of creating a Wiki in Wikipedia, and are exploring the usefulness of having a JobsDB blog," he added.

At EastWest Public Relations, the use of Web 2.0 technologies is encouraged at both an individual level and company-wide.

Sonya Madeira Stamp, associate director and a partner at EastWest, said the company's content management system hosts a Wiki for internal reference and a blog that connects its Singapore and Beijing staff.

"Our managing director Jim James, also set up an external blog when he moved to China in 2006 to update his network on the nuances of setting up a business in China, as well as personal thoughts on living and doing business there," said Stamp in an e-mail interview.

"We have also made use of Google AdWords to engage in the opportunities of search marketing. This increases the awareness of EastWest when somebody searches for keywords that are related to our agency," she added.

Professional social-networking site LinkedIn, and Facebook are popular means by which EastWest staff strengthen the company's online presence, build communities and reach out to partners and clients, Stamp said.

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) is also looking to use LinkedIn as a networking platform to connect New Zealand businesses interested to collaborate with businesses in Southeast Asia.

In an e-mail interview, NZTE's regional director Grant MacPherson said account groups representing the various industry sectors will also be set up within LinkedIn.

"In addition, we have also created a series of vidcasts, podcasts and e-books on the selected industries, which will be shared within the respective groups," MacPherson said. "The content will be hosted on various sharing sites, such as Youtube for videos, and Podbean.net for podcasts and e-books."

"Through these, we hope to increase NZTE's visibility and position the organization as a thought-leader among the business community," he said.

A case of saying too much?
According to Milroy, however, the main concern with Web 2.0 among companies is whether they are sharing too much information with customers or competitors.

"Also, Web 2.0 breaks down traditional hierarchies, which is a cultural challenge in some Asian countries," he said. "It gives everybody access to information and the opportunity to generate content on a corporation's site."

"Additionally, the benefits of this technology are often difficult to explain and justify, so there remains a lack of understanding of its benefits. But this is true everywhere, not just in Asia," Milroy said.

Seek noted that JobsDB, being an Internet-based company, recognizes the benefits of Web 2.0 applications. "Nevertheless, IT security is of utmost importance to us and our clients, and our IT policy includes several safeguards to ensure we are able to safely enjoy the benefits of Web 2.0."

While instant messaging (IM) is a useful and efficient means to facilitate work discussions among employees, especially when they are a distance apart, JobsDB stresses to its staff the importance of keeping all IM content work-related.

In addition, information uploaded to the JobsDB profile on Facebook should only be about JobsDB-related career events and seminars. As such, confidential data on the company, client or employee cannot be made available, Seek said.

According to Stamp, EastWest was able to hire new talents as a result of responses to its own Facebook profile and Google Adwords. "This exemplifies the reach of Web 2.0 technologies on the current Web 2.0 generation of Internet users," she added.

Milroy said organizations that use Web 2.0 tools are better placed to improve customer service, engage proactively with staff, and understand what is happening in their markets.

"Not leveraging Web 2.0 can place one at a competitive disadvantage over time," he said.