Web 2.0 – The Organic Virus

Organic, viral, all of these buzz words seem to pop out of nowhere and lead you to think that Web 2.0 is some living organism with a mind of its own. In a way, it is I guess. Web 2.0 is like an animal – you can’t specifically tell it what to do, but it can be domesticated, and people are figuring it out the best ways to do it.

‘Viral Marketing’ – Admittedly, I’d only heard the term a few times before this, and even without specifically looking up the term, I had a fair idea of what it was. Justin Kirby, managing director of ‘Digital Media Communications ltd’, explained that “viral campaigns ‘work’ the Internet to deliver exposure via peer-to-peerendorsement. The focus is on campaigns with material that consumers want to spend timeinteracting with and spreading proactively. So in this way online viral marketing provides the missing link between the word-of-mouth approach and the top-down, advertainmentapproach to brand marketing.”

As I understand it, something that ‘goes viral’ is anything on the web that gets people’s attention, and is linked to through the net (typically through Web 2.0 platforms), which results in more people seeing it and relinking it and before you know it, you’re getting asked by people next to the water cooler whether you’ve seen the ‘Old Spice’ commercials or not.

There are a number of ways in which to harness this phenomenon to supplement the overall marketing strategy for a product. Being able to ‘Re-tweet’ something on Twitter, posting youtube videos to facebook, even good old fashioned email forwarding.

The point of my leading this discussion to this point, is to demonstrate the idea that word of mouth, and letting the user decide for themselves the value of something is a good thing to strive for. Justin Kirby sees this, word of mouth (as opposed to business to consumer) advertising to be the answer to the problem of ‘too much advertising’ wherein the consumer learns to tune it out instead.

More to the point though, I think it’s relevant to the promotion of Web 2.0 in the workplace. I noted on this at the end of my last blog post, and is the inspiration for this one. The idea of planting a seed and letting it take root (Reminds me of Nolan’s recent movie, Inception actually).

The overarching problem I want to bring to light is the age old issue of resistance to change. You can do all the business process management tasks and other research to say that Enterprise 2.0 technologies are the way to go in your organisation, but none of it will matter if the employees won’t take to the new technology.

One would think the problem is quickly solved by the boss ordering them to use it, however therein lies a dilemma that Carpenter chooses to address. There are a number of differing view points, some stemming from a ‘push’ philosophy that says management should drive adoption, and some stemming from a ‘pull’ philosophy that encourages the viral, organic adoption of these technologies – the idea being that if executed correctly, you won’t be able to stop adoption even if you wanted to.

The question really is whether it’s better to push or pull. Carpenter explains the decision simply enough with the following framework diagram.

The biggest contributing factors include the value the organisation places on large scale adoption of the Enterprise 2.0 tools and whether the users involved in the proposed adoption find their current method of working ‘good enough’.

As you can see, the less each of these things is valued, the more the company should be inclined to simply let these tools loose on their workforce and leave them as an option. If the company does value the tools (and it is likely that they will in a lot of cases) then it is likely that the business will also need to take some initiative in ‘pushing’ the technology, or at least nudging its employees to be inclined to do as much. Finally, Carpenter believes if the company does not place huge value in the tools and finds its current strategy optimal, there isn’t a need to change what isn’t broken.

Given the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 tools I outlined in my previous blog post, all organisations will need to consider an Enterprise 2.0 implementation strategy at some point. I do believe this is something to consider, since it’s not a precise art – it’s more like trying to domesticate an animal, you’ll hit and you’ll miss, but you’ll get there if you have a clever strategy or two.


9 Responses to Web 2.0 – The Organic Virus

  1. Hi Anthony,

    Interesting read. Do you know of any ways that employers encourage and educate users to use these new technologies that have adoption issues?


  2. Hi Anthony,

    Do you know of any ways that employers encourage their employees to use these technologies that have adoption issues. What about training. Will try to keep up with your blog each week.


    • Hi Anthony,

      In a reply to Hutch Carpenter’s blog post (http://bhc3.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/when-should-management-push-enterprise-2-0-adoption/) I wrote:

      Reading Andrew Mcafee’s ‘Enterprise 2.0 – The dawn of emergent collaboration’, they cite a story where an organisation rolls out 2.0 tools for use within it and it’s interesting to see the different sides of the coin that you talked about in your blog here.

      The company director set up a wiki page, emailed everyone and hope the idea of using it would grow organically and nothing happened. He then said that he wouldn’t be reading emails on certain topics and in that way began to nudge people towards adopting the technology.


      Other than this, I cannot think of many ways off the top of my head. Besides simply forcing the adoption in this way, there is also the idea of rewarding people for taking it up. Running competitions, letting people feel they are being rewarded for adopting it. It can go a long way.

      Thanks for the question, it’s given me something to think about (and is something worth following on with after this blog post).


  3. Luke Delphin says:

    On the subject of viral marketing, I think there can only be 2 possible outcomes from it: hue success or resounding failure. For instance, I instantly recognized your reference to the ‘Old Spice’ adds because of their recent stint. However I can’t think of any other examples that have made such an impression to myself, regardless of platform used. So in this particular example do you think that the web 2.0 nature contributed to its success? And do you think that effect can be reproduced for other products/services?

    • Yes and no.

      The commercials would have aired in America and their comedic, absurd nature was popular enough for people to want to watch videos of them on youtube. There are many advertisements out there that are also probably uploaded to youtube, however they also need to be worth watching, especially if the item isn’t one you’d generally research, let alone look for videos for, on the internet.

      The Old Spice commercials however are worth watching.

      Web 2.0 is a vehicle. It is what made their world wide popularity possible.

      Can it be reproduced? Yeah. But like with anything Web 2.0, ‘advertainment’ will only be as popular as it is worth watching or talking about.

  4. Shaun Bergin says:

    I agree with the “age old issue of resistance to change”, that’s why I decided to coin the term Charles Darwin 2.0 where rather then Survival of the fittest it’s survival of the Evolving Enterprise. Like you said it’s hit or miss and sometimes the cheap and easy alternative is the best suited.

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