Larry Weber, Chairman of the W2Group, was one of the keynotes at Red Herring's CMO 2006 Conference. I was so excited by his ideas -- and in violent agreement. Weber built the world's largest high tech PR firm, Weber Shandwick, then sold it off to begin again with a new effort focused next generation marketing services.
Weber began by saying that he thinks the Web is not in its 2.0 phase but in 3.0. The first phase was site building, the 2nd, eCommerce and search and the 3rd and current phase, the Social Web, the world of communities.
In the traditional PR model, Weber remarked, a company tries to influence the media, analysts, investors, customers and partners via the mass media. The role of marketing is to influence opinion. In Web 3.0 companies, and marketing people, will be in turn influenced by their digital constituencies.
"What characterizes a community?" Wikipedia defines community "as the sharing of ideas, intent, belief, resources, preferences or a multitude of other conditions that that the members share in common...."
These communities can form around any interest, says Weber, i.e. Breast Cancer Survivors, Diabetics, Corvette owners, etc. It can also be any constituency of your company or organization, i.e. customers, employees, analysts, press, the shareholders, and investors. Or it can be any smaller subgroup, such as customers of a specific product, all retired Cisco employees, all editors who track the telecom industry in India, etc.
The goal of marketeers in a 3.0 Web world will be to be to build relationships with your various constituencies via social networks over the Internet, says Weber. Where as Web 2.0 was all about influence and control, Web 3.0 is all about building relationships, transparency and trust.
In order to build community, much less to build a strong market presence, a company or organization will have to learn how to engage with its constituencies. Larry is now at work on a new book on this subject, entitled "The Morphing of Marketing". I can't wait till it is out.