Google Sidewiki is Here…Roll Out the Welcome Mat

welcome matA few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post discussing the building momentum behind social media. Well, that snowball just got really big really fast. If you’ve been holding off on engaging in social media because you feel it makes you, and your brand, too vulnerable, guess what? You’re social now whether you like it or not!

Google recently released a browser add-on called Sidewiki. You should care about this…especially if you have an online presence (and if you’re hosting with us, odds are really high that you do.) I’m not saying you should stay up at night worrying about this, because in all honesty…it’s new and will take some time to catch on. It’s always a good idea, however, to at the very least be aware of developments like these.

So what is Sidewiki? The short version: it’s a browser sidebar (available only to users of Google’s browser toolbar) that allows any web page visitor to offer insights, critiques or general observations about any website.

I stumbled upon this news while visiting John Simonson’s blog. As John mentions, people rely more on the experiences and insights of fellow consumers than they do on a brand’s marketing hype. And who can blame them? Like it or not, while you once had complete control of your brand and the message conveyed by your brand  (in theory at least) you no longer do. With the rise of social media, consumers are more empowered now than ever before.

So what should you do about this developing trend?

First and foremost, rather than approach it in defensive mode, why not roll out the welcome mat? Do yourself a favor. At least download Sidewiki and if you’re really motivated, visit all of your pages to write a page description as the site owner. Perhaps by setting an open and welcoming tone, it will keep negative chatter at bay. And if you’re a bit more cynical, you can always vote down the negative comments. Regardless, the insights you’ll find on the left-hand side of the screen are just as valuable as any customer survey, focus group or feedback mechanism you could employ…and it’s free. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

In addition, do a little research. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel here. Check out this post by Andy Beal – it’ll take the edge off. Pretty common sense stuff, but worth a read.

Finally, at the very least, educate yourself and monitor the conversation. The last thing you want is to be the last to know about disparaging comments on your site!

Have any of you already downloaded and starting using Sidewiki? What do you think?

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