In case you didn’t notice, Web 2.0 is slowly engulfing all of us, and the excitement is building. The “Children of the Web” will soon be our next generation of customers. Will you be ready?

In case you didn’t notice, Web 2.0 is slowly engulfing all of us, and the excitement is building. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org), describes Web 2.0 as hinting to an improved form of the World Wide Web, but it also describes it as “a social phenomenon embracing an approach to generating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use….” Web 2.0 companies are popping up allover the planet, and venture capital is once again flowing.

The Video Generation

The biggest example is undoubtedly YouTube, an exciting and powerful media platform that is built around community involvement. Launched in February 2005, YouTube has grown quickly into one of the most popular websites on the Internet. Its audience has soared from 2.8 million unique users almost two years ago to more than 100 million users by July 2007.

A recent article in Newsweek called the YouTube audience the “Children of the Web.” These groups of kids have collectively changed the way people consume media, essentially creating a new clip culture that reaches to all corners of the globe (at least where there is Internet access). Google bought YouTube in October 2006 for $1.65 billon and is said to be looking for new video investment opportunities.

Another example is Joost, an online Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) network that specializes in running older programming such as Lassie, Ren and Stimpy, and Comedy Central reruns. The network has partnered with high-profile content provides such as CBS, CNN, Turner, and Warner Brothers and has added a Web 2.0 twist: Viewers watching the same channel can participate in a live chat online or through Gmail and instant messaging accounts. Over the last few months, Joost has signed advertising contracts worth millions of dollars with companies like Coca Cola, Hewlett Packard, Intel and Nike.

A New Marketing Tool

So what does this have to do with the metal finishing industry? Just the other day I was sorting through my e-mail and came across a message from Holiday Inn’s Priority Club that was promoting its “new Video E-Newsletter.” I was intrigued and immediately went to check it out. The marketing tool worked. I realized that if Holiday Inn could incorporate such a novel and “outside the box” approach to a value-added service to its customers, anyone in our industry could create something that is equally as impressive.

For a few thousand dollars, you can purchase a video camera and software and create video content that can easily be shared with the world. Use the video to circulate a DVD commercial for your company that is included along with traditional literature, or better yet, use your digital footage to create an online commercial that can be viewed on your website or as a commercial on another popular industry website. More and more Internet designers are working with digital film, and editing can either be done in-house on your own computer or contracted out.

Other technologies that are Web 2.0 based include community-involved programming, such as weblogs, wikis, podcasts, IPTV, RSS feeds and other forms of many-to-many publishing. All of these venues can be valuable new marketing tools for the metal finishing industry.

The “Children of the Web” will soon be our next generation of customers. Will you be ready?