Back in the nineties, there were people who would say "We've got a website!" as though this meant they'd cracked the internet. I remember early bank websites that were a picture of a room. Teller windows, filing cabinets, other bits of furniture, all of which gave access to literature on whichever services fitted the visual metaphor.
Nothing happened online - just documents to print out (and post). That went on until about 2005, which was the last time I heard somebody in a business environment say "We need a website!" as though that would solve everything. [Remember the advent of TV advertising? Guess you don't. It was the same.]
By then, we were sitting through those seminars and conference sessions on how to "leverage" Facebook. They never happened for Twitter, as I remember, and LinkedIn kind of crept up on us. Yes, Pinterest, Tumblr, namecheck, namecheck. Those seminars morphed into today's endless flood of "ten ways to get people to listen to you" blog posts, which all add up to "one catchy way of telling other people what to do in the hope that they'll listen to me forever".
Then we hit social media. Stage one: realising you could talk to your customers online. Stage two: realising that if you screwed up service delivery, they could rubbish you online. Stage three: realising that talk is cheap while fixing service delivery is expensive. Talking more. And more. But always sounding like a robot taking lessons in cheerful.
What's significant to me, in all of this, is not the moments of excitement - We've got a website! We could leverage Facebook! - but what happens when they don't solve everything. The excitements echo down the years, but so does that sense of bafflement that comes afterwards. It's the same every time, and it leads to real innovation, by which I mean a change of attitude leading into a change of behaviour accompanied by whatever new or re-purposed tools are needed to facilitate that new behaviour.
Two days ago, I was invited to "like" a new Facebook page. Yes, I "liked" it, but all that does is make me aware of it. That's something, but it'll take something more to stop me forgetting it.
Three days ago, I read an article (online) about teenagers' preference for reading stories in print. This wasn't a screamer; it was a sober little piece observing that teenagers also like books (alongside screens, games, et al).
Two weeks ago, I attended a "social media marketing" seminar. The usual. What Google's doing. Stats on what people do when they go online. I say "the usual", but it was useful. I've kept my notes. I mention it here because the over-riding theme of the whole thing was: good content. A few years back, it might have been: keywords. [It was. I was there.]
But now - content.
That's a change in itself. Thinking back to that Facebook page I "like". Facebook's useful. But so many people use it that it's a baseline. I might go back to that page. But not because I "like" it. Need more than that.
Maybe that echoing sense of bafflement is a lot of people getting ready to realise that the content has to be interesting. Not just frequent, or catchy, or "liked" by them or anybody else, or broken down into a list, but a genuine must-read.
Wouldn't that be great?
What could you really say, if you took the time to think about it? What do you really think?