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Use Web 2.0 to Build Trust with Clients

As the Web evolves, so can your business.

C. Marie Swift, 11/01/2007

Wikis, blogs, webcasts, instant messaging, podcasts, RSS feeds--just keeping up with the definitions of new and ever-evolving technology is enough to make your eyes cross.

Concepts like e-mail, e-zines, e-newsletters, e-books, and online surveys are easier to grasp simply because they take something we once received in physical form and morph it into digital form. But virtual cities where real people can create an alternate reality and "live" online through their "avatar" identity and get sucked into real debt? Wait a minute!

Don't believe me? Here's an excerpt from an article on News.com:

"Second Life users can purchase virtual items with a pretend currency called Linden dollars--named for game creator Linden Lab. But they use real-life currency to acquire that virtual coin. In fact, there's an exchange rate between the two: One U.S. dollar will buy 271 Lindens, enough to buy a basic outfit for an avatar, which is the digital representation of a person."

While we're all busy professionals and must stick to the primary tasks associated with serving our clients and producing revenue, none of us can--or should--ignore what's happening on the bold, new Web frontier. There are ways for even the most technophobic advisor to use Web 2.0 tools to his or her advantage.

What Is Web 2.0?
The phrase Web 2.0 refers to the second-generation of web-based communities and hosted services such as social-networking sites, wikis, and folksonomies (see the Web 2.0 Glossary at the end of this article) that facilitate collaboration and sharing between users. Technologies such as intranets, weblogs, social bookmarking, podcasts, RSS feeds, social software, Web APIs (application program interfaces), Web standards, and a proliferation of online services have led to a significant shift in how people work and use the Web.

What we're seeing is a transition. Web sites are no longer isolated information silos, they are sources of content and functionality. Some even become computing platforms, serving Web applications to end-users. We are also seeing a social phenomenon: People have embraced the act of generating and distributing Web content. The phenomenon is characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, and freedom to share and re-use information.
The good news/bad news is this: Now anyone can become an instant "author," pumping out information (or misinformation). The challenge--both for you and your clients--has become determining which sources are reliable and which are not. There is also an enhanced need for organization and categorization of content; technologies such as furl and digg were created to provide a solution.

But while the Web continues to evolve, human emotions and needs remain the same. Studies show that people go online for three things: To find information, to communicate with family and friends, and to shop. They often have their favorite sources of information and might set one site--a trusted blog such as the Huffington Post or a straight news source such as CBS Marketwatch--as their home page, and will they check it several times a day for key information and updates.

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