Google’s SideWiki Shifts Power To Consumers –Away From Corporate Websites

Yesterday, Google announced “SideWiki” a new feature of the Firefox and IE browsers (Chrome to come soon) that allows anyone to contribute comments about any webpage –including this one. The impacts are far reaching, now every web page on the internet is social and can have consumer opinion –both positive and negative.

Control Over the Corporate Website Is Shifting To The Customers:

  • Customers trust each other more than you –now they can assert their voices “on” your webpage. Every webpage on your corporate website, intranet, and extranet are now social. Anyone who accesses these features can now rely on their friends or those who contribute to get additional information. Competitors can link to their competing product, consumers can rate or discuss the positive and negative experiences with your company or product.
  • Yet, don’t expect everyone to participate –or contribute valuable content. While social technology adoption is on the rise, not everyone writes, rates, and contributes content in every location, likely those who have experienced the product, influential, or competitors will be involved. Secondly, content created in this sidebar may be generally useless. To be successful, Google will need it to look more like Wikipedia than YouTube comments
  • Expect Google to integrate this feature with existing systems. Google recently launched profiles, a feature that is the foundation for extending their social reach. With large social networks like Gmail already in place (That’s right, email is a social network) they can eventually sort content on SideWiki by context of friends, experts, or other sources.  Google’s strategy is to ‘envelope’ the web this is typical of their approach.
  • Although early, expect other social networks to launch competing features. Facebook has already created an ‘inlay’ so you can view links shared in the Facebook newspage in the context of your friends –expect them to grow this feature out shortly.

Recommendations for the Web Strategist:  Develop a Social Strategy Now

  1. Shift your thinking: recognize that you don’t own your corporate website –your customers do. Accept the mindshift that your job is to not only serve up product and corporate content but to also be a platform and enabler for customers to discuss, share, and make suggestions to how you should improve what you offer.
  2. Develop a social strategy with dedicated resources. With every webpage now potentially social, you’ll need to develop a process, roles, and policy to ensure you’re monitoring the conversation, participating as you would in blog discussions, and influencing the discussion.  80% of success is developing an internal strategy, providing education before a free-for-all happens with customers and employees.
  3. Don’t be reactive to negative content –embrace social content now. Give users the ability to leave social feedback directly on your corporate webpages, or aggregate existing social content.  CMS vendors are developing features to enable this, as well as community platform vendors like Kickapps, Pluck, Liveworld’s Livebar offer rapid deployment options.

I predicted Google would be one of the first to do this, however I expected them to start with Chrome, not FF and IE. Expect this to be a default feature of Chrome –not just a plugin in future efforts.

Update: Just saw an interesting tweet from @prem_k about impacts to CRM. He’s Right. CRM systems (Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Rightnow and others) will need to aggregate content in Google’s Sidewiki. It’s not just CRM, Brand Monitoring companies (Radian6, Buzzmetrics, Cymfony, Visible Technologies) will also need to “suck in” that data.

Update 2, a few hours later: We should stop to think about how competitors could display ads “on” your corporate site and you couldn’t stop it, why? Take a look at Google’s business model, they envelop and categorize the web, then display ads on it. There’s nothing stopping them from allowing advertisers to put ads on SideWiki as “sponsored” information. For example, Coke could run their latest ads on the Pepsi.com SikeWiki area. HP could run ads on the Dell.com site. This *already* happens in the search engine result pages on Google.com why not in sidewiki?

Update 3, the next day: I just tried out SideWiki to see how it works. I came to this very post and found out that there are already three comments. I left a comment welcoming folks, and it gave me the option to Tweet it, which I did. Here’s what sidewiki looks like, you don’t never have to have the plugin for this to work. Which means that this certainly has lower barriers to adoption. A few other field notes? I no longer have to fuss with captacha on blogs or name/email/url once I’m logged in to SideWiki, I can comment around the web. Secondly, it centralizes all my comments on my Google profile tool. You do see what Google is doing right? They are turning the whole web into a social network.