Beware the web1.5 beast

There is a dangerous beast preying on unsuspecting organisations who want to get into social media.  This beast is the web1.5 agency or campaign.  This is a campaign that purports to be a social media campaign, because it uses the tools of social media, but in reality is an old-fashioned, conventional one-to-many mass message approach.

How do you spot these beasts?

First – if it comes from a traditional ad agency, it will almost certainly be a 1.5 approach.  This is because ad agencies are institutionally incapable of embracing social media.  If they did, they would stop being ad agencies.  Likewise, if it comes from a media agency it will definitely be a 1.5 idea.  Media agencies sell media – and one of the golden rules of social media is “never rent space in a community, platform or digital place”  – if you have to pay to be there, you are doing it wrong.   Most digital agencies still sell 1.5 ideas as do most PR agencies – but not all.

Second – if it calls itself a campaign, it is – by definition – a 1.5 campaign.  Social media doesn’t ‘do’ campaigns.  Social media is an approach, which you either adopt or you don’t.  Campaigns are what traditional marketing is all about.  Incidentally, this is why you can run social media alongside traditional marketing – it is not a case of choosing between a conventional campaign or a social media campaign.  For example – Dell still does advertising, albeit Dell’s sophisticated usage of social media has changed the nature of its advertising – allowing it to become more tactical and less about carrying the brand narrative.  (Check this out – I never tire of showing people this video of Dell’s Andy Lark (@kiwilark) explaining Dell’s approach to marketing)

Third – if it focuses on a particular ‘thing’ (Twitter, facebook, blog etc) it is a 1.5 approach.  All of these ‘things’ are tools – in the same way a hammer or chisel or saw are tools.  Would you hire a carpenter who presented themselves as an expert in hammering?  Never focus on the tools, focus on what you want to build with them.  You can’t ‘do’ social media with just one tool in the same way as you can’t build a garden shed with just a hammer (although a hammer will help you build a garden shed).

What will happen to you if you buy a web1.5 approach.  Hopefully, nothing worse than disappointment.  You won’t get the reach and frequency you get with traditional approaches, nor will you get the engagement available with social media.  But so long as you don’t spend too much money, you can write it all off to experience.

However, there is going to be a lot of disappointment with social media in the next few months, as more and more organisations pile-in and get sold inappropriate solutions.  In fact 2010 is probably going to be the Year of Disappointment for many.  However, this simply equates to the Trough of Disillusionment identified by Gartner on their Hype Cycle – and after the Trough of Disillusionment comes the Slope of Enlightenment and the Plateau of Productivity.  So it’s not all bad.

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