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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

People and Processes Make the Social Web Work

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Listen to my conversation with Yogesh Gupta, CEO of enterprise web content management company Fatwire.

In this podcast, find out how businesses are using social media to make their websites more engaging and interactive, and learn the importance of having the right business processes within your organization to make a success of a social networking strategy.

Listen to or download the 8:31 minute podcast below:

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PW: I was looking forward to having this conversation, because Fatwire's got a really established background in web content management — and that's something that used to be a very static affair in the Web 1.0 days. But recently, particularly with the rise of social networking, I think it's been changing a lot hasn't it?

YG: It definitely has. You know, Phil, it's an interesting world that we live in. The web was extremely static. And then in fact, as businesses and organizations started to see ways to make it more interactive, it became more dynamic. And now with the social media, and then social web, the interactivity and therefore the dynamics continues to increase and continues to accelerate. And I think it's a really exciting time.

Initially, there was a very simple type of dynamic web stuff that people were beginning to do. For example, retailers do things like, ask customers to provide reviews and comments back on the products that they had and so on. But today, with the advent of social networks and social media, it actually is becoming that much more interesting and exciting. And I think businesses that otherwise wouldn't have thought that they would want to make their sites dynamic, are making their sites dynamic.

Well, of course, there's all kinds of different ways that you can build interactivity; and we want to avoid going back to the early Web days when everyone went crazy with Javascript and put all kinds of really quite stupid stuff on their website. It needs to be purposeful, doesn't it? So what sort of capabilities are enterprises putting into their websites these days that are making a difference for them business-wise?

I think you're absolutely right that significant thought has to go into figuring out, what is it that one is trying to accomplish, before one starts using any technology or any capability. We're finding that businesses who truly want to engage, for example, with their customers and prospects — and in that scenario, the interactivity is around enabling those individuals to provide feedback, ask questions. But then, it isn't just the website that ends up changing, right? You need to then have people within your organization that then respond to those comments, and then respond to those questions, and actually interact with those folks.

So there's a whole lot more to leveraging and creating engaging website than it is just the technology. But on the technology side, some of the things we are seeing that are being extensively used — and more increasingly used — are things like targeted content based on figuring out what the interest of the individual might be. I'll give you a couple of very simple examples. We have a customer called Telenor, which is a large internet service provider in Denmark. And basically, when people go onto their site, based on the fact that whether or not they're already their customer or not, and whether or not they have shown interest in certain products and services, they offer them other products and services, and so on.

Now you can say, well, that's relatively simple from a conceptual perspective. But from a technology perspective, that is hard to do, unless you have the right tools that allow the business users to do it. And so in that scenario, their sales people go in and they say, 'You know what, for this category of customers, or for these categories of visitors, we would like to offer them these products' — and they do it without IT ever knowing about it. They create content, they create those rules that provide definitions of visitor categories or segments, and then target content for them. I think that's the kind of activity that we're beginning to see happen across industries.

And of course this is why a specialized platform has got all of this built into it — it's so important isn't it? Because you're talking about really building complexity into the website — but then presenting it in a way that the business users can actually take advantage of the sophisticated capabilities — in order to engage their customers, and set up the processes and the responses, and adjust the content on a day-to-day basis — without actually having to go back to the programmers and ask them to do something.

That's exactly right. You're absolutely correct, Phil. And quite often, what we find is that many businesses and organizations will start down the path of doing additional capabilities on their websites without having the right platform. Because initially, people crawl before they walk, walk before they run. And as they start doing those, they start realizing that the amount of time and effort that is taking place just to do some relatively simple changes keeps increasing and keeps getting more complex and so on.

That actually is one of the driving reasons why prospects come to a company like Fatwire and say, 'Hey guys; we have tried to do this. We really are finding that it's hard for us to keep up with this. We don't really need to have developers and programmers to help us do some relatively straightforward things; and would your platform help solve some of those problems for us?'

And that is absolutely what is driving the market today for our products. It is the core web content management technologies have been around for a while. What really is exciting in the market today is how easy it is for the business folks to do their job. Whether it is a content editor or a content creator on one hand; or whether it is a marketing person, or a sales person, or a communications individual who is able to then figure out how they basically want to interact with the individuals who are visiting or [the] customers who are coming in.

And it ranges from better customer service, which we find our customers do. So for example, a very large electronics retail customer of ours, that provides consumer electronics products, has created a very, very sophisticated customer support site, where somebody can come on and within a matter of three clicks find the right answer to the potential problem that they might be having in using their product. And therefore they've done a variety of things. First, they have of course made the customer very happy that they can find the information very quickly. And then secondly, they have on their end reduced their cost significantly in terms of millions of dollars a month.

And so this is about delivering the personal touch without the personnel costs. And that's something that can be done if you have the right tool, and really the right platform, that enables these capabilities to be used by business users.

Right. And as you alluded to earlier, it is all about tying the customer interaction with the website into the people inside the company [who] can then respond to those customers and make things happen; not just relying on the automated widgets in the website but also being able to bring other resources to bear as needed.

That's absolutely correct, Phil. After all, when you look at the web, I actually see it as an enabler, a wonderful enabler for the business to engage. But it is the business that has to engage, right? In the end, it is the people that have to engage. And so it is absolutely essential for businesses to understand, and organizations to realize, what is it that they want to do and how they want to do it.

The worst thing that a business or an organization can do, for example, is give the external users the ability to, for example, comment and ask questions, and then not be responsive enough to that. And if you do that, then in fact, it is worse than not having that capability because people actually get frustrated. 'I asked a question; I never got an answer.' Or, 'I asked a question, by the time I got an answer it was no longer — it was irrelevant to me.' So that is something that businesses have to absolutely do. And it's surprising the number of organizations that don't do that. And it's kind of disappointing, because they think that the technology itself will solve the problems.

So it's really a combination of the technology, and the people, and the processes, that addresses the business need of engaging with users and visitors. So somebody comes on; they're looking for something. Being able to — even if they end up searching a little bit too long, there's no reason why the technology can't be used to pop up a little chat bar or to put up a little thing that says, 'Would you like to send us a question and we'll respond to you within the next X amount of time.' And obviously, if you give them an X amount of time expectation, you should respond within that X amount of time. And then having the people in the background who can support that. And I think that is one of the most important things that needs to be done.

So truly again, leveraging social networking technology is having the right platform to do it — building an engaging site, and then having the right tools to make it easy to do are all very important parts. But all of that doesn't really deliver the value unless your internal business processes are also modified, changed, or completely revamped, to deal with this new form of interaction.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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