A Little Bubbly?

Bill Sledzik tagged me on what may be a returning meme, this time generated by Steve Rubel, wondering if there’s a bubble in the web 2.0 world. In my comments I acknowledged seeing some bubble-like activities.

1) Social web company approaches me last week to execute PR and social media in exchange for equity
2) A client defaults on pay, social network oriented with commercial real estate focus
3) Third company approaches me to do PR for a web 2.0 app. Self admittedly, no substance to the app. just want to get in to the “2.0? thing. Our answer was no.


It scares me to see this behavior because it is the exact same as the dot bomb era. Let’s hope it doesn’t get that far this time (Flickr Photo credit: Laura).

At the same time, when there’s this much hype about anything, it’s inevitable that all sorts of new ventures will start. Many will not succeed. It gets back to the dot bomb lesson. What’s the ROI? And all of the folks who say there should be no ROI for social media are flat out crazy. Whether its brand perception changes, increased loyalty, more return sales, more sales, there needs to be ROI.

On the marketing side there is a bubble, too, but in large part because many organizations continue to try to execute one-way communication rules; controlling the message, talking to audiences, etc. This is in place of of truly engaging in the conversation. Instead of blogodramas, these efforts increasingly fall on deaf ears.

Posers, fakes and ignorant marketing types who don’t realize the dynamics of two-way communications will fail badly out here. Social media requires your personality to come out sooner or later. Often those that don’t play well in such environments quit. They cry that social media doesn’t work, when in actuality their failure lies in approach and not the media forms.

Social means more than one, so companies that want to succeed need to get into relationship skills and out of command and control.

I leave with this. On the masthead there is a tab, listing social media case studies. Successes can be found here: http://nowisgone.com/case-studies/

7 Replies to “A Little Bubbly?”

  1. Geoff,

    Rubel may be talking about a “bubble.” I am not. My concern is simply “perspective.”

    Our social-media strategies need to fit overall strategy, and like it or not, that involves ROI — not chasing the “shiny objects” (other than to learn about them). I think we agree on that.

    Case by case, users of Web 2.0 can build the evidence of social media’s effectiveness, but I don’t foresee many CEOs relinquishing “control” of message until they can see a return from an open, conversational system. Measuring dialog is no small task.

    It’s not enough to say “Trust me, this will be good for you.” That’s was pretty much the mantra of Cluetrain, but that’s to be expected from seminal works that break new ground. Web 2.0 was still very much a puzzle seven years ago. No so much today, but still an exciting place to be.

    We’ll need a better set of metrics if we hope to see business broadly embrace social media. And we’ll either get there or we won’t. I know for a fact that my own efforts in Web 2.0 have had significant ROI for me and for the program here at Kent State. But damned if I can measure bottom line impact.

  2. Bill: Your original post definitely reads “are we in a bubble” to me.

    As for measurement, this is something we’ve been talking about for sometime in PR marketing sphere. Our mutual friend Kami has been talking about this for some time. In addition to the actual case studies tab, other recent (past two months) posts here:


    On the Buzz Bin:

    I am glad to see this becoming a wider, active conversation. The entire industry needs to focus on results, and your voice is a welcome addition.

  3. Hi Geoff,

    Looking at the first part of your post, you mention seeing some bubble like activities. I think another interesting sign of the previous bubble was the number of networking events. Granted, when you have something like “social media,” it lends itself to face-to-face networking.

    The question is what is the purpose of these events? When you have an article highlight the new fad of “lobbyconners” (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/14/MNKJSL3GM.DTL&hw=tech+conference&sn=004&sc=608) it makes me wonder if events are being held just so you can have an event.

    And thanks for pointing out the case study page. I plan to review this more closely to see how this can be used more in my company. Right now, we’ve been closely wading into the waters – evaluating each thing we do to see what methods would work for us.

  4. Geoff,

    If there’s a “bubble” in my post, it’s an inferred bubble, not an implied one. I’m not suggesting that the “bubble” of social media is about to burst. Heck, I didn’t know there WAS a bubble. My post simply reacts to three minor events last week — events that made me wonder if more critical thinking is entering the discussion of Web 2.0. Your thoughts on ROI suggest we’re on the same wavelength.

    I don’t see a winner and loser here, just as I don’t see the bubble. Social media and the conversations they spark are playing a role in PR strategy, and that will continue. Will they take over as our primary tool of communication? I’m not so sure about that. So let’s have the conversation. Our exchange today shows that two folks with divergent views can do that.

    Your case study links are helpful, and I plan to visit each of them. Cases can be the first step in building theories and research initiatives to help us all get a handle on social media impact. But I’ll add this confession: I hate the idea that we have to attach bottom-line measures to something as qualitative (and enriching) as online conversations. I’m with Brian Oberkirch: It’s like trying to nail down a shadow. But nail it down we must.

    Link to Brian:


  5. Cece: Thank you for dropping by. This definitely opens up a lot of questions about the bubble. I, too, am feeling the onslaught of events, and am frequently asked if I will be attending the plethora (no, I won’t be at Blog World Expo or WOMM). Definitely a sign of thirst for information… and a sign of bubblage.

    We have a group of circuit speakers, too (I guess I may be one of them). Hopefully, speakers can give bonafide, tangible results. This is one of the three keys to corporate adoption I mentioned in a previous comment.

  6. Bill: In your post, which refers to Rubel in an almost biblical sense when he says we’ve been drinking our own web 2.0 kool-aid (a.k.a. bubble), you refer to those “three minor” events as major significant events.

    Case studies and repeated successes are essential, and should be the final step for those of us practicing full time with line item budgets to manage. Theories may be nice in academia, but they matter little in the real business world. We don’t have time for academic theories to be worked out. What we have is an immediate demand for results. And what we need is proof that social media works so other businesses can engage. Five to ten years from now academics can sift through the ashes to figure out the right theory.

    And I disagree, metrics are not that hard to nail down. Numbers never lie.

  7. As is usual, I find myself in the middle of this discussion. I look forward to reading Bill’s mentor Pat Jackson. I love the idea of bridging academia and the practice of PR. However, I know I don’t have as purist a perspective as Bill.

    Fact is that day in, day out, practitioners like Geoff and I are being asked to make a campaign (social media based or no) work for our clients. They are paying us to get it right. They don’t care if we call it PR or marketing, just that it works.

    I am probably one of the most excited about the possibilities that the new tools are playing in making a symmetrical model of communication possible, but I am also the most allergic to tactics-driven approaches. The forward thinking clients are excited about this for the same reasons – the ability to connect with the people that matter to them.

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