I have not been a fan of the term Web 2.0, mainly because of the many instances where it has been taken out of context. Through revisiting the man who coined the phrase, Tim O’Reilly I have rediscovered that his thoughts and concepts around this phrase not only make sense, but puts forward ideas and directions I can and do subscribe to. Thank you Jeremiah Owyang for your blog What’s after the Social Web? for pointing me back to Tim.

I am not going to venture into a definition of Web 2.0. It is not my term to tamper with. Besides, it would be difficult to reduce the definition to a few words and phrases, not to mention the possibility of misinterpretation if it is read by someone who doesn’t truly appreciate the phenomenon that it is.

This is how O’Rilley defines Web 2.0:
“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.(This is what I’ve elsewhere called “harnessing collective intelligence.”)

In one of Tim O’Reilly’s latest blogs Why Dell.com (was) More Enterprise 2.0 Than Dell IdeaStorm, his vision of Web 2.0 is clearly laid out.

It is important that people get this because it really puts the term social media into perspective. The word ‘social’ often throws us off. We immediately think of outward facing dialogue, collaboration and social connections as being at the forefront of social media. However, it is often the product of the dialogue, collaboration and connections that provide the real added value of social media. Just like Tim O’Reilly’s Google example in his blog where google’s intelligence is only made possible through the way in which it organizes and uses content that is produced by the collective.

A bit of poetic license here as I attempt my own example. Imagine a computer reseller who allows customers to build their own specs online. To facilitate this they have some social media elements on the site that allow users to discuss the merits of various components. They can debate, discuss, and ask advice from each other. The data (conversations) are then monitored with key words and phrases, actively searched so as to provide the individual users with immediate information about the components they are talking about. This can include descriptions, user reviews, costs and options to select, add to your basket, add to your build, etc. Conversations about which graphics card works best with which processor for example can result in bundled deals, further reviews, alternative suggestions, etc.

Beyond this, users movements can be tracked and their search behavior monitored so to allow the computer reseller to understand real customer preferences versus their assumptions about customer preferences. Tracking could help with their supply chain management, trend watching and configurations for the standardized commodity boxes they sell to computer stores, allowing for real time adjustments to product offerings and market understanding in an industry where constant changes do not have the luxury of quarterly marketing reviews.

It is with this understanding and vision that we have built SocMeTM Through integrating social media elements with CMSLMS, analytics and measurement tools, websites are turned into intelligent business tools that are applied in relation to a company’s unique business rules, goals and needs.

Conversations, collaboration and gathering data are all vital, but so too are how we handle and use that data. The trend is to be fixated on the well-known external facing social media properties out there, rather than thinking how social media tools and applications can bring us a competitive advantage.

For example, people talk about using twitter as a business tool rather than thinking about creating a searchable organizational database of collaborative conversations. Yet it goes beyond this. How we organize, manage, analyze and use that database of collective conversations is key.