The social web is a part of the Web 2.0 and is focused on social structures and interactions over the Internet. The term “social web” includes web-based applications that support the exchange of information, relationship building, and communication in a social context.
The goal of the social web is to simplify interpersonal interactions for users. It mainly focuses on the exchange of information, knowledge, and contacts with other people. Social web refers to the interaction between two individuals within a defined network, such as Facebook.
One form of the social web are wikis, which features content that is produced as a joint endeavor. A wiki is a web-based software that can be divided into open and closed systems. In an open system, such as Wikipedia, any viewer can modify or customize the content by editing the page in the browser. However, with a closed system, only certain people can change the content. To keep an overview, many wikis have a history that provides information about past changes. The first wiki was developed by Ward Cunningham in 1995 and named “WikiWikiWeb.”
Web blogs are publicly-managed diaries on the web. They are similar to autobiographical documentation and are arranged in chronological order. You can include videos, sound recordings or images. Blogs usually show easy usability and rapid dissemination through networking. The first blogs were created in the early 1990s. These were simple, manually coded websites, which were regularly updated by the respective operator. Later, blogs were also used for political and journalistic purposes. Today, with around 1.4 billion members, Twitter is one of the largest blogs in the world.
Social networks were created in order to connect friends and acquaintances as well as business partners. As a rule, registration is necessary for a social network service, in order to subsequently access the profile pages of others who post on their interests and activities. The first social network was created in 1997 under the name “Sixdegrees,” but was discontinued in 2001. Other examples of social networks are StudiVZ, Facebook or Google+. Xing and LinkedIn focus on business purposes.
Social sharing is about sharing content between users. For example, opinions, reviews, pictures or videos are shared. Platforms such as YouTube are used for social sharing.
Companies have the opportunity to develop and improve their image through the social web. They can present themselves more openly to its customers. It also serves as a tool for establishing and sustaining relationships. People who express positive thoughts and recommendations about a particular brand are very valuable to companies. According to a Nielsen study from 2009, 90% of participants trust buying recommendations from people they know. Statistics like these can help determine the social proof and thus characterizing the behavior of potential customers.
A high risk associated with the social web is the possible loss of control, as with controversial opinions or counter-campaigns regarding a product. Reactions of this type cannot be targeted or reliably predicted. When a company steps into the social web, it approaches its customers and calls for dialogue. This also makes the company vulnerable as there will probably be more than just praise and positive comments. Consequently, a company must have a plan to adequately respond to criticism.
If a company actively participates in the social web, it can generate traffic. This is created, for example, by blogs or links. If a discussion or exchange of opinions takes place concerning a product, a service or the company, its ranking within a search engine will benefit. This, in turn, is due to the resulting content that includes topic-relevant keywords. Search engine optimization and social media thus complement each other and can be decisive for the success of a company.