Laying the Groundwork for a Web 2.0 Strategy

Before setting up a Facebook account, MySpace account, and a blog, it doesn't hurt to revisit the basics of Web 2.0 and understand the why's underpinning the evolution of new internet strategies.

The difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is like the difference between reading a book and having a conversation with the author. The internet used to be a place where visitors would just float among sites, absorb the content posted there, and then move on. If you wanted to do something, say something, or change something, a website wasn’t the place for you. The evolution of the internet has fundamentally reshaped the way individuals interact with other individuals and organizations alike.

There is a collection of trends, concepts, and examples that we will examine that adequately encapsulate the new incarnation of the internet, but the idea of Web 2.0 itself remains elusive. That is why, in the true spirit of Web 2.0, we are opening this up to discussion. Post your definition of Web 2.0 at the bottom with the best example of how a financial institution utilizes it.

User-to-User Interaction

We all have a real and compelling need to communicate with each other, and Web 2.0 has allowed us to do so at a level never before possible. For our purposes, let's focus on two forms of user-to-user interaction: social networking and user-generated content.

Social networking relies strongly on the profile; users must set up an account with the website in order to access the content. Some examples include Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. However, before your credit union hops on a social network and starts blasting your message, consider what value you add to the network. Do you have something compelling that will make people want to friend you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter? Turning your MySpace profile into a clone of your website ignores the massive interactive potential of the network.

User-Generated Content websites provide a forum for individuals to post something that they have created: original, multimedia content. Sites like YouTube, Flickr, Yelp, and Wikipedia are all founded on the principle that there are authors of original content who simply need a platform for publishing their work. If you are posting your content on these forums, what niche are you serving? How is your credit union's YouTube video going to compete with the likes of laughing babies for viewers and screen time?

Here's a side question: What are people saying about your credit union on Yelp? It may be worth a look if you haven't checked.

Relationship between Host and User

It is important not to overlook how the internet evolution has changed the way that hosts interact with their site users. New platforms allow credit unions to actually originate the conversation, where the credit union begins by creating some kind of forum for communication with members rather than at them. The two noteworthy sources of this interaction are microsites and dynamic web experiences.

A microsite is treated as auxiliary to your main website, so this allows us to group together blogs and promotional sites. The main purpose of a microsite is to engage some segment of the member/user base in a unique discussion separate from the communication that takes place on the credit union's main site. Whether it is a credit union blog, hosted video forum, or a unique hybrid—such as—the value for users comes from the hosts ability to choose topics relevant to the intended audiences and their ability to provide fresh content via content updates or contests to drive the conversation.

Organizations have become increasingly crafty at taking cues from the behavior of visitors of their sites, allowing them to provide a dynamic web experience to their users. When users visit a page, or click a link, they communicate specific preferences for the types of content they wish to view. For example, a member receives a general email with several different promotional offers, and clicks on a link offering more information about refinancing. The credit union then builds a triggered email campaign around this new piece of information about the member, and the member, without knowing it, has selected the topic for future communications.

Forming a Web 2.0 Strategy

The point of this article is not to tell you the what but the why. When credit unions set up an account, or start posting content, they understand the potential of the technology and their own goals for the initiative; one thing many often fail to take into account is the original purpose behind the platforms creation and use. Realize why people are on the site rather than just observing that they are on the site.

Once you comprehend the basics of how your Web 2.0 strategy must differ from your Web 1.0 strategy, you are ready to begin implementation. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll talk tactics, and work through some case studies of how credit unions are taking advantage of the possibilities latent in the new internet.



March 23, 2009


  • I'll go ahead and start the discussion with this quotation from Matt Nelson, an analyst at the TowerGroup: "Web 2.0 is the use of lightweight, intuitive, Web-based services that rely on user participation and user-contributed data, and generally involve some level of social interaction and networking."
  • Thanks for the input, Jimmy! Some great ideas and great examples. I completely agree. A good rule to go by: if you wouldn't do it in person, you probably don't want to do it online. Imagine if you were hosting a presentation for a group of members on a certain topic. Would you stop the members from speaking to each other, and suggest that if they have any questions to call you up after the presentation? Or, would you open a dialogue, and allow members to share their experiences and engage them? I imagine everyone would easily choose the latter! The online channel should be no different.
  • I think the key idea in this article (and I'll jump the gun and assume the same for the webinar) is that "Web 2.0" and "Instant Following for Free" are not one and the same. I've heard people say "We want to put our CU on Facebook. That'll draw in the young people". I don't bother telling them that's nonsense. The web and its various channels are like any machine - you'll never get as much out of it as you put in, but you will get more out if you're willing to put in a solid effort. Updates, talk-backs, e-mails, posts, matter what it is, make it a worthwhile interaction for members who are actually interested in you. And please, don't bother blogging and twittering and vlogging and vrogging and twogging and any-other-dr-seuss-words-ing if it's not going to be anything more than "I like coffee...thoughts?" Give members something worth reading. Give them offers that are dependent on their interaction with you. Give them insight into what's going on with your CU. Show them things they need to see. Ideas for your CU: 1) "Fireside Chats" with CEOs - Take a few minutes, talk into a digital camera, have your web guru put it on your site so you can talk with your members. They might want to reply: let them. Give them an e-mail address or a form they can send you a message with. Let them talk back. 2) Member communities - This would be ambitious, but why not let members chat with each other in a forum setting? You claim you're a community organization, so serve your community. 3) Member submitted section in your newsletter/your online news section - let a member send you their praise, their success story, their kudos for your work and the work of your employees. Make it a feature section of your site. Show your members you're interested in what they're doing beyond their account balance. One of DigitalMailer's clients has been doing something similar, with great success (read about it at There's no reason to think about Web 2.0 if you're not interested in hearing from a member every day. If you want to strengthen your online presence and, by so doing, strengthen your member relationships, then start producing.
    Jimmy Marks