A Community of Poseurs

Web 2.0 loves to point out the community expertise that we all encompass (yes, the royal we), but when push comes to shove ... we are just poseurs. Well, not me, but a lot of the experts in the Bay Area.

Why? Well, the Laughing Squid party drove a point home - as I had noted to Jeremiah (and he blogged). Only the big squid himself, Scott Beale, could throw a party that crossed the Burning Man crowd with the Web 2.0 techie crowd along with other hipsters. Scott is one of the few people that can cross over so many communities - he's like that popular guy in high school that could cross the cliques and be friends with everyone. (And, yes, he really is that nice a guy.)

Sadly, though, not many people can cross over like Scott. The Web 2.0 marketers and PR people cannot move beyond Web 2.0 people, and that is a big problem. And that is why many web 2.0 companies are likely destined to fail: they cannot think beyond the Bay Area and Valley. It goes to my favorite mottos from the Web 1.0: Fuck the Bay, Fuck the 7x7, Fuck the Valley - mostly to remind myself that just because it plays in SF, does not mean the rest of the country would care. And, let's be honest, SF people are cheap and fickle.

Me, I can cross over also. I was off my game at Laughing Squid II but at least I talked to other people that I did not know. I talked college football. :) But, I was pissed because I have been off lately - preoccupied or feeling like something's missing - but that did not stop me from moving beyond the safe zone of Web 2.0 people to meet others, to talk to others.

But the sad statement of the event was that it is very very clear that we wear blinders, we are insular and we cannot think of the bigger community, and even worse (or sadder) we cannot work in the bigger community.

For all the PR 2.0 and marketing 2.0 people, all that really says is that they mean they can work in their little enclaves, but in the big bad world ... they are failures.

And, that's why I always tell people I'm a Detroiter (although I'm also from Phoenix, but it's the same thing): I think like a Midwesterner and try to think how and why a Midwesterner would like a product / Web site. When I was back in Michigan for my cousin's wedding, my Uncle and other cousin had an interesting take on YouTube and Google: Google did it for the tax write off. They don't use Flickr, they all use Ofoto (because they were supporting me while I was there). They don't know or care about Web 2.0 - they just want stuff that works online, and can get stuff done. Blogs, yes they read them (and mine), but podcasts and vidcasts are just not there for them right now.

And, this is the real world we need to think of - the flyover states that still control the nation (despite our disdain for them). If we cannot move into those communities - like most were unable to do at the Laughing Squid II party - then we are failing our clients and failing ourselves.

Photo of Scott Beale and Michigan autumn leaves by me.

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  1. Interesting that blogs are the most accessible of the "new media" to consumers while (from an anecdotal pov) podcasts are the easiest things to get a client's buy-in on...


  2. Ed, I think it's the way you sell it in. Podcasts can be sold like "hey, do a radio show!!" and blog outreach can be sold as "hey, it's just another form of media."

    Personally, the launch a blog strategy rarely works unless it's done smart.

  3. I probably get the opposite reaction you (the collective, as in Ed and Jeremy) get working on the Left Coast or for a tech-focused agency. Being in a Toledo, Ohio suburb, blogs and other social media are still foreign.

    I've tried to work with some bloggers and on some boards as pertinent to clients and projects, but it's the bulk of my work is still traditional PR and media relations.

    Even the clients that have some understanding of blogs are too stretched man-power wise to even be a decent candidate for a blog (not counting other factors against them).

    So, while you and select others bring your clients back to the ways to reach normal people, I and a few others here in the great Midwest will try to stretch clients to consider social media . . . and maybe we'll meet in the middle.

  4. Well, that's the point Michael. To rehash many of the conversations I have had with Robert French at Auburn ... the PR bloggers (and, let's be honest, the marketing 2.0 people as a whole) fail to get or acknowledge that the majority of PR is not in firms or being done in-house for corporations ... but is on the local level, very local level, that is not ready for new media, and probably won't be for a while.

    The middle is probably the best place, though. It's usually knee deep in reality.

  5. Jeremy -- in a lot of cases, it's not the technology that gets in the way. Nor is it the message, but rather the attitude that you so rightly recognize. (And I think you already know that where "flyover country" was once a perjorative term for "non-coastal rubes," many of us out here now wear it as a badge of honor, and roll our eyes when we say it.)

    That said, you touch on one big point. The myopia of the bleeding edge. It's great that we can so quickly mashup services and prepare for the next big wave, but for the most part, it's the same little community that plays with all these toys, and burning VC money by the million waiting for the audience to "scale up."

    When I put together my branded RSS-reader system, I was pleasantly surprised at the buzz it generated in this community. At the time, I though it was because I had been clever in marrying a few pieces into a cohesive alert system. It turns out the real story was that a techie was actually reaching out to make the tools more seamless and accessible for the masses.

    And that outlook is much easier to maintain in places where not EVERYONE has a Blackberry. (Don't fear visiting, Jeremy. We do have broadband, interstates, Starbucks, and FREE WiFi at the airport.)

  6. Good post and good points all around.

    There is a ton of myopia out there.

    Jeremy, the point you refer to about the PR and marketing blog community is my pet peeve. It is similar to how people say "PR" and throw a blanket description (often defamatory) over all of us.

    You'd think that the people that are best prepared to craft their messages and focus on their audiences would be the ones to get it right. But, for the most part, we don't. From the PRSA to the perceived top-tier PR/marketing bloggers, they get it wrong day after day after day.

    Myopia. They see their own trees, but are clueless as to the forest.

  7. good, humble post Mr. Pepper. Me and my Fortune 1,000 clients are still mired in the decidedly low-tech world of online mediarooms.

    Adoption is and always has been an equation of pain/solution/time spent/money spent


  8. great post, jeremy. and way to represent the D. some think that having our office in Ann Arbor detracts from the madison avenue and silicon valley buzz, but i concur with your take - it keeps us grounded and in touch with what "every day" people, like our parents and friends, are doing.

    btw - the last time i heard you use the word "insular" was... lol

  9. great post my friend - "right on" is all i have to add ;)

  10. You may have been off your game at the Laughing Squid party, but you looked fantastic! I almost didn't even recognize you. And yeah, great post, too.

  11. Ike - your branded RSS reader was cool because it was going beyond one community. And, I've been to flyover states and think that they have it more together than others! And, I don't own a Blackberry. :)

    Robert - as always, thanks. Myopia will eventually be the death of us, though.

    Dee - well, I'm not really humble. But, the adoption is coming (slowly) but we are all in too much a rush to get there and not think it through, sometimes.

    David - well, same insular, and I am surprised I didn't use the same line. Go Wings!

    Glemak - Thanks Mike. :)

    Jennifer - your flatter me, and thank you. :)

  12. Totally agree with you on groups being insular. But this concept is thinking is not limited to the microcosms of SF.

    Most people live in a bubble. They feel safe within that bubble, and when they periodically venture outside their bubble, they feel vulnerable.

    I was talking about this recently with a friend, whilst our Cricket team was touring in London. There was a recently published fact about how many Americans had passports, which was a miniscule amount (but was increasing due to Mexico/Canada requirements). We discussed that we (the team) are the odd ones, because we have less fear of the unknown.

    Although, the Web2.0 group (as classified by you), are very insular now; most of them came from some where else to settle into SF. So there is a hint that they can cross borders, and live outside their bubble – but maybe not as often, as the few of us.