Like many companies, I’ve been exploring new ways to share information through my website. Many thought leaders are doing the same. It has become clear that the old model of the static website as an advertising medium where we talk and customers just listen is a concept whose time is fading.

Because of the latest technology in social media and mobile apps, communication and sharing is becoming an interactive dialog. That’s why more and more companies are ditching their static web pages and creating dynamic web experiences for their customers and visitors. What is the difference, you ask?

Dynamic sites usually employ interactive components that give the client or customer visiting your website the tools to interact with each other. That includes discussion forums, polls, comments, user registration processes and newsletter subscriptions. Those tools also give them e-commerce options like online storefronts, ticket and accommodation booking systems. Some dynamic sites even go as far as image and text functionalies that allow clients to upload to the site in real time.

Companies of many sizes today are reaching out to consumers through social media vehicles to co-create game-changing products that meet newly identified needs or help take their niche products into the mainstream.

Understanding the role social media plays in a company’s overall strategy is gaining traction, as more companies realize its value. It isn’t just about new products and services delivered in isolation, but new business models where companies partner, or “co-create,” with customers and communities.

So what should organizations do to take advantage of this trend? First, realize that you have several different audiences looking at your offerings through the front door that is your site. Bringing social media and Internet platforms together to create a space for listening to the customers and end users is key. Your customers are engaging in many different social arenas, and you need to be willing to enter into those circles with them.

Things are evolving so there are different ideas about what this can look like, and how much these tools are integrated. But while the technology is fairly easy to master, the listening part is where I often see disconnects. The bottom line is that if we don’t learn to listen and appreciate how our customers use the Internet, we won’t get far in our co-creation efforts with them.

The best place to begin is not with our own ideas, but with theirs. What is the No. 1 need of each stakeholder group? How are we delivering, or even not delivering, what they are looking for? Getting to these answers isn’t easy but social media tools are providing another avenue for information.

Smart companies are fostering collaborative conversations to harness the creativity that is out there. In previous columns I have talked about how Hallmark, Kraft, IBM and Local Motors are taking advantage of Internet collaboration tools to harvesting customer ideas.

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to further developing your social media strategy. Using the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare and LinkedIn, we can create an environment that fosters collaborative conversations that can forever change our relationships with customers.

Whether you are a small company or a corporate giant it makes sense to explore customer co-creation to transform traditional product development into new mutually valuable experiences. Don’t let your approach to the Internet remain stuck in the 20th century.

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