Darrel Austin offers a very thoughtful post, riffing on the recent MiMA talk I gave. His basic point was that the talk, while offering up a survey of Web 2.0-type apps, is "nothing new to anyone that spends a bit of time during the day on the web." He also suggests that web firms (and I’d argue most marketing firms) should make a more concerted effort to keep abreast of these developments so that they are leading their clients to good solutions:
"So, a proposal. If you are a manager in any web-centric firm, get your staff together and throw out a list of trendy concepts floating around the web: AJAX, Flickr, Ad words, blogs, folksonomies, social bookmark aggregators, podcasts, etc.
If you are greeted with a set of blank stares, you are not a relavant web firm. Yea, you may have a few cash cow clients that don’t know any better, but you’re hanging on by a thread. Solution? Let your web employees surf the web. Yes, that *is* time well spent."
I pretty much agree with the spirit of his comments. There’s a lot of re-hashed crap out on the web. Plenty of shit to point to and say, "tired, cookie cutter, stock art driven". But, I’m not sure the solution is to let the developers out to pasture, to poke around on the web an hour a day and hope they come back with some gold, or at least some inspiration.
Here’s a couple other ideas for firms looking to develop an understanding of emerging web marketing technologies and apps:
- Let your developers do some pro-bono work for a deserving non-profit or a client who "gets it". Use the opportunity to really push the boundries hard. Give the projects to developers that either a) have show interest in new tech b) are coming off long, boring or tough projects and need to get re-energized or "old" developers who need to reboot their skills
- Start a small business on the side. It doesn’t take a ton of cash to start a web store anymore. Use the opportunity to explore the edges and try out techniques on yourself before you make the clients try it. Look at what Coudal has done with Jewelboxing, for instance.
- Start a blog. Seriously, use the blog as a marketing tool, and ask your developers to keep it up to date. Look at what Xplane has done with their Bblog and their Xblog. Very smart marketing, very good investment in their staff.
About the talk, Darrel. Again, I agree that the apps weren’t anything new to a lot of the crowd. I’d bet that 90% had heard of at least 1 of the apps/companies I covered. But, simply listing what kinds of apps make up the read/write web, recognizing what’s different, is only first step. My simple inventory was just that. Simple. Inventory. Developers, coders, designers know about these apps because they were, for the most part, made by and for web geeks.
What I didn’t get to enough in the talk is the fun part: What does it mean to marketers? Most of the audience, I’d guess, were not as experienced as you with these apps and they probably haven’t gotten to think on a macro level about how they are going to get impacted by the changing online landscape.
Here are a couple points that I’d emphasize more if I could do that talk over again:
- Create/ Control / Critique – Ishould have put this model at the front of my talk. I think users in the future will be working under a different mental model when it comes to web usage.
- Create vs. Consume – In the future, users may be creating as much or more than they consume right now. Whether it’s creating posts on a blog, reviews on Amazon, bids on Ebay, photos on Flickr, we’re doing much more than "browsing". That’s going to have a big impact on how most of us use the web. Our expectations will change, our use scenarios will change, we’ll want different things from the time we spend sitting in front of the computer
- Control vs. Confuse – Users are going to be much more in control of their experiences online. Content creators will have less control. As adoption of the internet and broadband grows to saturation, the web will be less about confusing technology and more about tools to make life easier. Tags and FOlksonomies allow users to put their own name and descriptions on their web experience. Networks like Linked, Ryze, Tribes.net drive their social connections, users will be referred to sites and services by trusted sources vs search engine listing (though they won’t go away and garner their own trust). RSS enables users to control the massive flow of news at their fingertips. Blogs enable anyone to speak to millions without having to know a single bit of HTML. The web is going to be another tool to add order to your life, vs the confusing sea of tech it was to most people just a few years ago.
- Critique vs Consider – The consideration process of any purchase will get paradoxically both harder and easier. It’s so easy to find a critic on the street. It’s even easier on the web. Any marketing message delivered online will be received by a consumer that has massive amounts of info at their disposal to refute, critique, or contradict it. Don’t trust what Buick is telling you about their new cars? It’s so easy now to find competing claims or alternative reviews that marketers will need to learn how to position their products, services and brands in the midst of all that info flow. Users will be more skeptical, and your marketing message may not be as valuable to users as the reviews/views of their online peers.