It seems like every site on the web now has some form of “Web 2.0” or social features integrated with them. Whether that’s an official Twitter account, company blog, a Ning group or Facebook fan page, social media has created a new channel for businesses to use for customer service, marketing, and community building.

This past week Google launched a new product as part of their Google Toolbar that every website owner should be aware of.  Google SideWiki is a huge way to annotate the web. Think of it as seeing comments, additional links, and Wikipedia style annotations alongside every webpage you visit. According to Google’s Video, you can link up additional text on the page to point to your annotation, or leave a comment on the page as a whole. Don’t want to leave your mark? You can still view everyone else’s comments and rate whether they’re useful or not, or share a comment via Twitter or Facebook.

While you need Google Toolbar to use and view Sidewiki (these annotations are not visible unless you’re running the toolbar) the game changer is this:  People can leave comments about your site and your company essentially ON your site, whether you want them to or not. Now, comments can be flagged for abuse, but at the end of the day technologies like this will make brands more transparent and really empower customers to speak their minds. So, what will they say about YOUR brand? Take a look at some screen grabs from Apple, Wal-Mart, and RedState.com

We’ve been having some great discussions with businesses about the Social Media scene and some of their hesitation to interacte in that space. And thankfully many have embraced the technology instead of trying to fight it. Because as services like Sidewiki grow in popularity, and as more people communicate with business through social media channels, it will be impossible to ignore.

So, where do you start? We’d suggest that you first browse around and experience the tool for yourself. If you’re interested, download Google Toolbar with Sidewiki and you’ll be good to go. Next, claim your Sidewiki space on your own website.

After you’ve downloaded the Google Toolbar, sign in with your Google Account (or create one). Then follow these steps:

  1. Add and verify your site in Google Webmaster Tools. This process links your site to your Google Account. Learn more about adding and verifying your site
  2. Once a site is linked to your Google Account, visit your page and click the Sidewiki button to create an entry.
  3. Select the ‘Write as the page owner’ checkbox in the entry form.
  4. Click Publish.

We hope this gives you a little insight into a tool that could mean some big changes in the way brands interact on the web. Have you used Sidewiki yet? What are your impressions of it, and how do YOU think this will change customer relationships? Leave us a comment (or contribute to our Sidewiki).