Companies blazing Web 2.0 trails


Portland Trail Blazers fans quickly took advantage of the professional basketball team’s brand new social networking Web site to lobby for power forward Zach Randolph to be selected to play in last month’s NBA All-Star game.

The Trail Blazers hope the site, which signed up 2,500 registered users in the first three business days after its Feb. 9 launch, can also help management better communicate with the team’s fans — and sell more tickets, said Art Sasse, the team’s vice-president of communications. The Trail Blazers had initially projected that 5,000 users would register on the site by the start of the 2007-2008 season in October, he said.

The team joins a growing list of businesses that are embracing Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis and podcasts to create social networks where customers, partners and others can add content and create virtual communities.

Driving awareness

While such social networks first gained popularity among mostly youthful users who flocked to sites like MySpace and YouTube, businesses are now turning to the technology to boost their brand appeal and sales while gathering feedback to use in the development of new products.

For example, General Motors Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. launched social networks recently for their Pontiac and Old Spice brands, respectively. Web 2.0 technology “drives the drumbeat of awareness,” Sasse said. “It is a good, old-fashioned grassroots organization. The more authentic the connection, the more powerful [it] is.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals launched a partnership in January with Squidoo LLC, which provides a platform for building Web 2.0 sites, said Jo Sullivan, senior vice-president of development and communications at the New York-based organization. The joint effort allows pet owners to build personal Web pages on the ASPCA site that can point to blogs, RSS feeds and other destinations, said Sullivan.

MacDonnell Ulsch, a technology risk management and privacy analyst at the Boston office of consulting firm Jefferson Wells International Inc., cautioned that many companies are rushing to use technologies like blogs and are not stopping to adequately assess the risks.

“Companies are scaling the technologies among the workforce without understanding the risk or the legal implications,” he said. “What do you really gain if you improve your business processes, [but] in doing that, you actually create more risk?”



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