Thursday, July 19, 2007

Monkey Business

I had to chuckle when I read this on Steve Rubel's blog, under a picture of a monkey on a treadmill with a breathing apparatus attached to him:

All of this leads me to the photo above. The Web 2.0 construction boom is bigger now than it ever was. Techcrunch, Scobleizer and Mashable leave me all breathless. It's like watching the cranes of Dubai rise. We're a million monkeys running on treadmills, chasing the latest banana. Myself included! The breathing apparatus in the photo above reminds me of my Google Reader stream!

Steve is clearly a guy who loves all this tech for its own sake, and that's fine, but I was reminded of a lesson all marketers need to learn: you are not your market. You're not public at large. You're the people using the things you talk about. And you have to remember who they are if you want to talk to them and not yourself.

"We're" not a "million" monkeys; a core group of people who have what Steve calls "shiny object syndrome" are a half-dozen monkeys. The rest of us are watching to see which shiny objects are worth the effort, and which are more like a pile of rotten bananas. Or, more likely, we're not even watching; we know that if there's something good, we'll hear about it second or third hand.

I'm not really knocking Steve or the other Web 2.0 fanatics; but if you read his blog or watch his Twitter stream, it's clear that he loves this stuff because it's cool and new. And that's fine; somebody's got to be wading through all these sites and finding the gems, and it should be somebody who loves it.

The only problems is when people start saying "blogging is dead!" (actually, from what I see from my small business clients, it's really just getting going) or things like this, in another post:

What this all means is that mobile platforms and devices encourages people to publish more often, but in a far shorter format.

Last but not least we have social networking. These sites and services make it easier for us to tune into "signals" - e.g. people and topics we care about - and tune out noise.

So what does this mean all for blogging? I imagine over time some erosion. We will unsubscribe from low quality blogs written by strangers that we truly don't have time for, in favor of tuning into friends and their mobile streams.

When I read stuff like this I find myself thinking of the Pew Internet & American Life Project study from May that looked at how Americans use internet technology. 8% are heavy users; half of us are occasional users, and 10% use information technology but consider it to be a hassle.

Which confirms what I observe in real life; there are tons of tech-savvy knowledge workers who find their email annoying, don't like instant messaging, and generally want information coming to them from fewer, more manageable sources.

That leads me to another observation: there are all kinds of new ways to push information out and get it from others, but the easier it gets, the lower the information density of these messages are. Twitter is a great example; it can be fun, I've gotten some useful and interesting things on it, I do enjoy seeing tweets telling me what a friend who moved to New York is up to... but the amount of valuable information there is much lower than what I find in my email or in the blogs I read.

The bottom line: take all of it with a large grain of salt. There are all kinds of interesting things happening, most of which will never become marketing tools or important to your daily life. It's important to take the front-line reports of folks like Steve and incorporate them into a bigger picture... and always, always compare that to what the people in your market are actually doing.


Mark Cahill said...

Perhaps the best bit of wisdom I've read on new tech, social networking, web 2.0, ajax, and whatever becomes the buzz du jour next.

It all comes down to this: these are all wrenches in our tool box. They aren't the goal, they are means that may help us acheive our goal.

I am loathe to do Webby 2dot just for the sake of it, but when there's a real value to the end product, I'm glad to know that I have that kind of stuff in the arsenal.

There are many who macerate on these grand issues. For me, it's a matter of utility. Simply getting the job done...

(I've got an interesting project underway that's actually got a reason for me to use some of those new and interesting tools - when it's further down the road I'll share it with you - it's excellent illustration of my point...)

Mary Schmidt said...

Yes, we monkeys have got to remember there are millions who aren't monkeys. I've got clients who are still questioning whether they need web sites...or what they should do with their current one that's done in frames. (And, they ask, what's frames?)

So, yes, it's a set of tools, and some work better than others..and some wouldn't work at all for the job that needs to be done. (For example, I won't be using web marketing for one client who needs to reach low-income clients in rural New Mexico. These people don't have computers, can't afford them, don't have web access and many of them have limited reading skills.)

John Whiteside said...

I've been having these "what gets the job done" discussions with one client (because the project is basically teaching people about how to get the job done) and what's really striking is new online media are important, but for a whole lot of people the bread and butter is sexy things like billboards, TV spots, and postcards. For us consultant types, there's certainly a niche in specializing in the hot new doodads, but I like being the guy who knows the old and new and can recommend what works.

SamS said...

As an ex-Silicon Valley (techie, marketing, founder, seller, half-written book author...) guy now living in Dubai since the last 4 years (having a technology marketing company here..) I wholeheartedly agree with the Cranes rising in Dubai analogy..though, things are slowing down on purpose - The government has decided that it does not want ghost towns - so it is slowing down the construction pace and spacing out the handover of buildings. Nevertheless, life is quite hectic here..