Over the past 10 years, the way businesses and consumers use the Internet has evolved from informational to transactional and to participatory forms of content. In its commercial infancy, the businesses flocked to provide information about themselves on the web. No one was really sure what to do with the new medium but they knew it was an important component.
As technology improved and both businesses and consumers became more comfortable with it, the transactional application of the Internet became important. We watched as Amazon and EBay capitalized on the ability of the Internet to sell goods without a storefront.
Now, the Internet has made another evolutionary step. Not that the information or transactions have gone away like dinosaurs, but the technology has expanded to allow more robust media as well as two-way flow of content between site owners and their users. Tools like Wikipedia and YouTube allow users to create their own content and share it with the larger community. Even TV shows like Lost and Heroes are leveraging the technologies to provide content to its fans in a variety of formats. The shows’ writers provide videos, stories, clues and insider information to their biggest fans. Fans can even post their own ideas and questions and interact with one another.
As the Internet evolves, it expands to provide new ways of leveraging the technology, improving the many ways we communicate and know one another. Businesses and consumers are both reaping the rewards.
The Internet technologies available now can provide a lot of value to any organization whether non-profit, commercial or governmental.
What is the value?
The value of leveraging the Internet technologies now available is threefold:
Let’s explore each of these in the context of a specific implementation.
How do we leverage the technology?
For example, imagine a local economic development organization who is challenged to communicate the assets, advantages and resources of their community to attract new business development and new residents to support the economic growth. Leah, the organization’s director believes that using the Internet will provide a good outlet for posting their materials. But she wants to do something beyond just posting a text, she wants to create an experience for her target audience.
She decides to develop a two-stage approach to the experience. The first stage is to develop a traveling program that introduces the region to neighboring government, business, community and corporate leaders. Stage 2 is the development of an online community that will enable Leah’s audience to:
Choose topics that are most relevant to them
View information about chosen topics in layers, each giving the viewer more depth of information
Participate in discussions with other users by viewing, posting and responding to questions and other posts in a technology-based discussion board
Access recent updates through news articles and blog posts connected to the site
Locate other sites that provide more focused information
The value of this mixed approach is that Leah’s organization can reach more people than with a live presentation alone. This allows Leah and her core team to spend the most time with the contacts that will be most productive to reaching her goals. Participants who want more information will be able to seek that information even after the presentation ends. This allows the presentation to continue its work even after the live session ends.
Leah’s team can also leverage the web site presentation to reach audiences that may not be reachable in person. By monitoring their web site traffic, Leah can make decisions about which areas may be the most impacted by a live presentation. This reduces the cost associated with each presentation made.
After the web site is setup, Robert, visits the site and is pleased to see how rich of an experience is provided. During his visit to the site, Robert views an online presentation sequence that includes animations, music, voice over and video of information about the topics he selects. At specific points during the presentation, Robert has the option to choose to learn more in-depth information about a specific part of the presentation or continue with a broader overview of information.
As part of the overall experience, Robert can sign up for more information about the live presentations and login to a discussion board to interact with other users of the site and members of Leah’s organization.
As Robert is viewing the presentation, he notices something that his colleague Jennifer may be interested in. He immediately sends her an email with the link to the site and Jennifer is able to view the same presentation.
The repeatability of the presentation brings value to everyone involved. Leah and the organization, Robert and Jennifer all benefit from a common message, that can be viewed any time by any one.
What are the benefits?
By integrating live presentation content with online versions and deeper levels of content, many organizations have been able to leverage Internet technologies to:
Provide more depth of information to their users
Provide updated information to an audience they have already met
Create an online community of interaction with customers and others interested in their information
Build trust and respond quickly to user needs
Facilitate relationships between their users and their members