According to one estimate, one in 10 online consumers in the United States tags something on the Web at least monthly. If you’re in an online business, this may whet your appetite for figuring out how to tap into our propensity for categorizing content with keywords.
That’s just the topic of a report from Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. While you can buy a copy of ” Executive Q&A: Social Tagging For eBusiness” for $279, here’s a free recap of the advice offered by Rotman Epps.
Consider using taxonomy-directed tagging, but give the choice. If your site suggests specific tags to the user, that encourages consistency and makes the tagging process easier for users to figure out. But don’t deny users the ability to come up with their own tags — that’s not very social. Just as it is with the people who update dictionaries, watch for the most popular uses of tags over time to expand the company collection.
Automate the process of coming up with that initial taxonomy of tags. Rotman Epps mentions several tools that can help. Endeca Technologies and Mercado Software can both extract phrases from product text that already exists on the site, and PowerReviews will do the job in a turnkey fashion by reviewing sites related to a product category, interviewing people and doing survey work.
Decide beforehand whether you’re going to go with a manual or automatic approval process for user-created tags. If your organization is concerned about filtering out junk, you may choose to go with the manual approach. The downside: It’s time-intensive, and, after all, what you want to engender with tagging in the first place is putting at least some of the content generation burden onto users. Rotman Epps says that “the relative newness of the technology makes this a concern that few companies had to confront.” She references companies that have gone the hybrid model — allowing any and all tags without prior approval, but bringing to the forefront only those tags that enhance the searchability of the site.
Broaden the appeal of tagging by making it easy to do. Have users select tags with check boxes or menus; provide help at points where it’ll best serve the readers in mouse-overs and popups; integrate tag functions with site search and navigation.
Let the user set the privacy level. Forrester recommends that you let a user determine whether his or her tags are viewable only by the person who set them, by that person’s network or by anybody using the site.
Do you have a tagging scheme worth sharing?