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So the G20 summit meetings here in the UK are over and whatever your views and reflections on the whole event and the circus that surrounds it – it’s been an interesting week.

Interesting for lots of reasons of world politics, but my focus here is that it was interesting from an audience engagement and social web perspective.

We saw how the voices of social web crowd are becoming more influencial in the traditional news agenda, where the messages have been entwined, as the traditional news media has leveraged the crowd, while the crowd have consumed, commented on, debated and shared the traditional news commentary.  

This has not been without controversy. This editorial article from Management Today claims that the news agenda has been dumbed down, by the ‘traditional’ news media lazily following and being influenced by the social web, instead of providing a calmer, more considered and measured commentary. 

We are also seeing that every campaign now engages with their audience through a social web element – a trend that matured into the main stream during the Obama election campaign. In this case a UK government department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reached out to its citizens through this website, dedicated to the summit (a website that is powered by Alterian). Here you can see a rich site that is packed with opportunities to participate, blogs, a Twitter feed, aggregated comments as well as video, RSS feeds and all the engagement features that we’d have considered innovative and ‘web 2.0′ – especially for a government department –  a year or so ago. 

In the interests of balance, you could probably say that our technology is powering both sides of the debate – the UK trade union Unite uses our software to power their website and leverage many of the same social software engagement tecqniques, through a presence on Facebook, Union TV, feedback on articles  and the ability to customise the homepage, BBC style.   

What we are seeing is that engagement over the web is not just about customer engagement, or being like Amazon, it’s about connecting with people, influencing, communicating with and persuading folks through the power of the web. Regardless of the organisation – or message – websites need to show dynamic, rich content and have strong social media ties to share that information – engaging the crowd in the debate.

Whatever the objective, the smart organisations are putting content at the heart of their campaigns.