While there are a good number of tech-savvy hipsters out there that understand terms like “Static Web”, “Dynamic Content”, “User-Generated”, “Cloud Computing”, and “Semantic Web”, the majority of nonprofits don’t talk or understand such tech speak. So, to simply for the nonprofit masses, I present and frame very simple definitions and interpretations of Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 as follows:
Web 1.0 = Websites, e-mail newsletters and “Donate Now” buttons
Web 1.0 is one person or organization pushing content out to many people via websites and e-mail newsletters. The donation process is not interactive or public. You donate and then receive a “Thank You” email. It’s one-way communication.
Web 2.0 = Blogs, wikis, and social networking sites
At its core, Web 2.0 is the beginning of two-way communication in the online public commons. People can post comments and converse with your organization in public for all to see. It’s one person or organization publishing content to many on social networking sites who then re-publish your content to their friends, fans, followers, connections, etc. Donating is a public experience. Friends, fans, followers, connections, etc. on social networking sites see your giving and fundraising activity through widgets, Apps, and peer-to-peering fundraising tools, like fundraising pages.
Web 3.0 = Mobile Websites, Text Campaigns and Smartphone Apps
Web 3.0 is all of the above except that the Web experience is no longer limited to desktop and laptop computers while stationary in one place. It’s the Internet on the go fueled by mobile phones and tablets. Mobile websites must be designed to be easily read on mobile devices. Group text campaigns function like e-mail newsletters in Web 1.0… to drive traffic to your mobile website. Text-to-Give technology allows quick, easy donations on your mobile phone inspired by urgent calls to actions. Smartphone Apps enable content to be published and shared easily while on the go. Effectively donating via smartphone Apps doesn’t exist yet, but its coming. Very soon.
Web 1.0 + Web 2.0 + Web 3.0 = Integrated Web Communications
What’s important to understand is that all three eras of the Web are complimentary and build and serve one another, rather than replace one another. They can also overlap. You use Web 2.0 tools to drive traffic to your website, to build your e-mail newsletter list, and to increase visits to your Donate Now buttons. You use your Web 2.0 communities to launch your Web 3.0 campaigns. And you use your Web 3.0 tools to grow your communities on social networking sites and to send supporters and donors to mobile versions of your e-mail newsletter “Subscribe” and “Donate Now” pages.
And while many nonprofit communicators are overwhelmed by all these new tools, it’s important to understand that there has been a paradigm shift in web communications. Some supporters and donors still prefer to be engaged by your nonprofit Web 1.0 style. Others think “e-mail is for old people” and consistently get most of their content and inspiration from social networking sites. Web 3.0 will organize the masses in ways never seen before through geolocation, group texting and mobile websites, and much of it will be done via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and FourSquare smartphone Apps.
Bottom Line: There’s no “One Fits All” communication tool or tool set anymore. Age, class, race, gender and location play huge roles now in how people want to receive information and calls to action from nonprofits. The good news is that all of these tools are now affordable for nonprofits (even mobile marketing tools!). It’s just a matter of keeping up and finding the staff time – and the right person on staff – to master Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and Web 3.0. Those nonprofits that do it best will be the most successful in sharing their mission and programs, creating social change, and securing and maintaining new donors. That’s my take. How about you?