New marketing tools usually come with an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes before you commit to using them. The innovators jump in, work out the kinks, and the rest of the world follows. Google’s sidewiki is different. If you wait, you’ll miss a great opportunity to build relationships, reinforce takeaway points, and engage the public.
If you haven’t heard of the sidewiki, it isn’t surprising. Google’s release two weeks ago didn’t send shock waves around the world. There were some tweets and blog posts from people on the cutting edge, but mostly it was quiet.
My initial reaction was less than dramatic. I thought that it was just another online tool. It isn’t. It turns every website into a social media platform. The owner doesn’t have a choice. Anyone who installs the toolbar and activates the sidewiki can comment on the site for everyone to see.
Some bloggers are crying foul, because they see the potential for abuse.
While they have a legitimate argument, the Internet has never been policed. Sites like ripoffreport.com already provide a forum for real and imaginary complaints. The only difference is that the sidewiki comments are viewed every time the company’s pages are loaded.
It is similar to the sidewalk in front of your business. It is an open public space. People are free to come and go as they please. People unhappy with your service may picket your company, pacing with signs voicing their complaints. All you can do when the picket line forms is watch them pace back and forth.
The sidewiki is better because it allows you to respond so observers get a more balanced view. If the complaint is misrepresented, you can correct it. If it is legitimate, you can publicly resolve the issue. It is a live demonstration of how you fix things when they go wrong. In a world crying for transparency, it provides the venue.
But, wait! There’s more!
Google allows you to claim your web pages. You can use the space to enhance your website. If you take a few minutes to imagine the possibilities, you’ll forget the potential for abuse. Every page becomes an opportunity to engage your customers without investing in a web makeover. Here are some ideas to get you started with sidewiki marketing:
- Welcome your visitors on your home page. Invite them to explore your site, comment, and contact you. Sales follow trust. The more people get to know you and your company, the better chance you have selling your products or services. Embrace this opportunity to reach out to them.
- Provide anecdotal information on your product pages. Did you travel to remote regions to find a unique item? Tell your story. And, while you’re at it, invite your customers to tell theirs. How do they use your items? What’s their favorite product or service? Why? When customers start selling to each other, marketers’ dreams come true.
- Add information that helps or entertains your customers but doesn’t quite fit on the page. Is there a shortcut to assembling the item? Post it on the sidewiki. Know any fun facts? Post them on the sidewiki.
- Monitor your pages and respond to customers and complainers alike. Conversations are two way. Answering your customers encourages them to talk more. Responding to complaints builds trust. Most people don’t expect perfection. Letting them see how you resolve issues improves their comfort level.
- Don’t use the sidewiki for overt selling. It alienates people and violates Google’s rules. Your objective is to engage people, not drive them away.
Online marketing as we know it will never be the same. Google’s killer sidewiki changes everything. Others, like Microsoft and Yahoo!, will follow their lead. Companies that hide poor service behind a cloak of secrecy will be revealed at the point of sale. Quality businesses that believe in excellent service will be rewarded.
Are you ready to embrace the change and move your website to an interactive social media platform? If no, you should know that burying your head in the sand may keep you from seeing the changes, but it won’t make them go away. Google’s sidewiki has power behind it. People will use it. Opportunity is knocking. Start claiming your pages now.
What do you think about the Sidewiki? Is it a sidewinder, destined to destroy companies or a sidewalk cafe?