As the hype (and confusion) over social networking and all things X2.0 accelerates, it seems that the PR/marketing techniques that dominated the late 1990's are back in fashion. Take this from an email and press release I received today:
Email: "I thought you might be interested in news on the recent exponential growth of XXXX, the online white-label social networking platform. The company has doubled last year's growth in the first six months of this year.
Thus indicating demand for online social networking is ever increasing."
Press release: "XXXX, the leader in empowering online communities, has doubled its growth in the first half of this year, compared to the entire 2007 calendar year, increasing revenues almost 200% in the period January to June 2008.
The company, which specializes in building social networking platforms and online communities for organizations, now has a customer base of 80 clients, in a variety of industry sectors including music, media and entertainment."
All this tells me is that a particular startup company is doing relatively well. But then I wonder. The company isn't eating its own dog food. If it really is building communities then its approach to someone in my shoes would be entirely different.
There's a scarcity of solid market data to make the assertion that: "demand for online social networking is ever increasing." I have no doubt that there is interest but that doesn't automatically translate into demand. That's an entirely different concept.
Much has been made about the way customers want to be approached in a different manner, how the Tivo generation is tuning out advertisements and how customers are much more in control of conversations around brands and products. How about fixing the PR/marketing that goes with it? Apparently not. If anything, I am receiving an increased volume of 'messages' that bear the 1990's hallmarks of hyperbole. I tune those out, along with the claims made.
As to the specific claims: among the medium sized and large companies I speak with, a certain caution remains about the implications of these new technologies. The likely impact on the need to adhere to regulatory requirements is a specific concern. Just how this stuff gets implemented in a way that delivers lasting value remains unclear and community building is far from a done deal.
If government is to be regarded as any yardstick, recent attempts to keep social software out of government as discussed at Mashable indicates there is a long way to go.