A lot of the discussion about the so-called new wave of “Web 2.0” has centred around technology. But what effect is this new era going to have on marketing?
“Web 2.0” as a phrase first appeared in the title of an O’Reilly conference in 2004. It was obviously boosterish, and took advanatge of the new wave of web companies doing strange new things with RSS and the like. Web 2.0 referred to using the Web as a “platform” instead of just as a loose conglomeration of interlinked sites.
“2.0” also played to our hankering after the old days of the boom. If this was Web 2.0, weren’t the bad days over and a new boom yet to come?
It seemed so.
The last 18 months have been extremely interesting for any Web business follower.
Last year Web 2.0 started to mean less about technology and more about online democracy, “citizen journalism”, and “user generated content”. In other words, the technology was less important than the communities of people which Web 2.0 sites were starting to bring together.
Hence, we now have situations where technology firms are not acquired so much for their software as for the communities they have managed to attract to their sexy new application. See Flickr.com for starters. Or Rupert Murdoch paying $580 million for Myspace.
And acquiring was clearly back on the agenda. Web 2.0 in 2004 had been quite geeky. The following conference – by all accounts – was full of VCs.
Of course, there is no real bubble. There is no IPO bubble market these days. What investors are looking for is actually businesses, which is encouraging.
But I digress.
It’s communities which are the new feature here. Now, when I want to buy something, I don’t just buy the product, I research what other people have to say about it. If I find one on ebay, again, I don’t jus buy it, I see what everyone had to say about the seller first.
In very large part I ignore all “spin”. I avoid adverts, I look for trusted sources, I hunt down the smart view, the community of souls looking out for my interests, and I after theirs.
This new world of reputation and trust – powered by the Web 2.0 of social software – has the potential to have far a reaching impact on the worlds of media and marketing. That is pretty obvious.
What is less obvious is what these sectors do about it. Because from where I’m sitting, 2006 is going to be the year when traditional marketing really does start to roll over and die.
From here on, the only thing preventing someone from Googling absolutely everything before they buy it, use it or even east it, is having a decent phone on which to display the results.
The more the purchase of a product of service is influenced by marketing, the greater the impetus there is on us to checkout of what we are presented with matches reality.
Assuming most people check the home or work PC instead for now, and that the perfect Google phone turns up soon, that means it is going to be harder and harder to “spin” products and services to the average punter.
At this point of course I turn around and prove myself wrong. Who is going to be Googling a perfume? Well, perhaps not. But if, when Googling or Yahooing or MSNing, you find that it’s made of mashed-up Chinese children, or is no longer worn by Nicole Kidman afterall, the marketing sheen starts to evaporate.
The average punter is getting connected. Really connected. And the combination of “Web 2.0” – using the Web as a platform for new and amazing applications, along with full-blown self-organising, self-policing communities (Wikipedia, Ebay, even Gawker is a communy of comment posters) looks like creating a perfect pincer-movement on marketing and related activities like PR.
Until marketing can come up with a response to this perfect storm – and please don’t say “Search Engine Optimization” or I’ll hunt you down and slit your throat – the only way, I’m afraid, is down.