Let me take you on a trip back through time. The year is 1995. The World Trade Organization is established. The Dow closes above 4,000 for the first time ever. The DVD is introduced. “Calvin & Hobbes” ends. OJ is found not guilty.
It was also around this time that this “World Wide Web” thing was really getting some attention. Netscape Navigator 1.1 is the dominant browser, while Internet Explorer is barely off the white board. Amazon is stunning the world by selling, of all things, books. And, Yahoo!, the powerhouse -to-be, goes from being a few pages of links managed by some Stanford kids to one of the first fully-incorporated online entities.
Coincidentally and fortuitously, 1995 was the year I finished graduate school and decided that a good thing to do was to sell my soul to corporate America to pay off some student loans. So, I donned my Red Sox cap, packed a duffel bag and hopped on a train to New York City (in retrospect, I should’ve left the cap at home). After an all-to-brief engagement with a start-up called iGuide (a joint venture between the telecommunications giant MCI and media giant NewsCorp), I joined a small, but very successful, brand and marketing agency as a producer and production manager in their still nascent “Website Team.”
It was an exciting time. The energy in the dot-com space was tangible. Silicon Valley and Alley were the nuclei of activity, charged by entrepreneurial protons who had not yet forgotten their collegiate roots, and who were partying like the Rolling Stones during the “Exile on Main Street” sessions. It was, to say the least, decadent. To say the most, it was revolutionary.
But, as with many revolutions, it was not without its share of confusion and uncertainty. Professional marketers and business leaders often appeared rudderless and reactive. They turned to traditional agencies for guidance and support. A conversation such as the following was not uncommon:
VP of Marketing Guy: Thanks for all your hard work on the brochure. It looks great. Your team did an outstanding job.
Agency Account Exec: Thanks a lot. It’s what we do best. Tell all your friends. Another Rob Roy?
VP of Marketing Guy: Well, I really… OK. By the way, what do you know about this website thing? Can you help us with that?
Agency Account Exec: Of course! It’s what we do best. Tell all your friends. What do you want exactly?
VP of Marketing Guy: Ummm…
The point here is this: suddenly, faced with an opportunity that was potentially transformative, but untested, the business world forgot their B-School basics. They became reactive. Dot-com initiatives were formed outside the framework of a legitimate business strategy, all for the sake of staking a claim on the digital frontier.
I say this now because we are seeing it all over again in the world of social media and, in some cases, mobile. Marketers and other business stakeholders know that the world of Web 2.0 is transformative, but, in many cases, are failing to see the customer through the new lens of social business, and failing to embrace the new paradigm inside a fully integrated, well-conceived digital strategy.
The mission of this blog is to elucidate the challenges both businesses and consumers will be facing in a climate where “being social” is both empowering and effective in meeting both personal and business goals. I also hope to prove the point that the digital strategies that evolved between 1995 and 2005 are largely outdated, and in desperate need of a make-over. I will be brutally honest, critical and sometimes irreverent. I hope I am equally insightful and informative.
We are embarking on something special…and I stress “embarking.” Anyone who thinks this ship is under full sail is failing to comprehend the social, cultural and economic impacts of the new digital climate. Please share your thoughts, questions and concerns. I, and others in the community which I hope will form here, will do our best to advance the thinking around digital strategies in the social age.