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Web 2.0: A “Swing and a Miss!” from The Wall Street Journal

I am not convinced that traditional business has a clue about Web 2.0. I know there are pockets of innovators and early adopters and [insert marketing jargon here] but if you were to look at the entire landscape these folks merely dot it, not blanket it. This week the Wall Street Journal ran a big feature article on business in the Web 2.0 world. I was ready for WSJ to hit it out of the park, but instead, we got a swing and a miss.

Wall Street Journal

Image by Enrico Fuente via Flickr

On the front page, at the very top in red print, it exclaimed “Marketing in a Web 2.0 World,” which got my attention. I went to the special Journal Report Section, which is done in collaboration with the MIT Sloan Management Review. Nice pedigree, to say the least. The section headline goes even further with its headline, “The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World,” with the subtitle “Consumers are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds. And they are leaving a lot of marketers behind.”
Well, they’ve certainly got my attention now, although I wonder about the wisdom of starting a sentence with “And” right in the headline. (I suspect that Web 2.0 editors are not constrained by Turabian’s Style Guide.) So here I go, ready to gain the combined wisdom of the business stalwarts The Wall Street Journal and MIT Sloan. Hold on a minute or two while I read the article again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
I’m back. Nope I wasn’t hallucinating at all. It was as basic as basic can be. More talk about blogs which to most of us are about as normal as breathing. Then to show how the report wanted to be hip and cool, it even tried to coin the phrase “marketing technopologist.” Huh? New terms and phrases that actually ARE coined are also easy to pronounce. Maybe the Skippy, Biffy, and Muffy Ivy League crowd got a chuckle around the fireplace at the club over that one but I just shrug my shoulders and ask, “Are you kidding me?”
It gets even worse. I am not a fan of the whole Second Life/virtual world/avatar thing, so maybe I am the one missing out here–please tell me if I am because I love learning. Having told you this, I was a bit dumbfounded when in the “Embrace Experimentation” area of the article, they gloss over this area of virtual worlds as one of innovation they uncovered while interviewing 30 or so “progressive” marketers. Right after that was a statement about how some companies have been using instant messenger for customer support. Quite a swing there from avatars to instant messaging.
I know that the whole Web 2.0/social media world is vast and few, if any, have truly grasped it. I consider myself an intermediate user at best, although I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a slew of other tools daily. Facebook, Digg, and received just passing mentions, and many other tools ignored completely. These are the things that people are actually using. Here’s just how far off this thing was, in my opinion. It had the nerve to mention Wikipedia in this conversation as a business tool! Wow. I’m not sure how to even respond to that, since most of the free world understands that Wikipedia is wildly inaccurate at best and a corporate shill (read marketing brochure) at worst that is usually prepared with an agenda.
Ok, I’ll take a breath here. Here’s my last point, and then I’ll leave this alone. When one of these managers that were interviewed finally stated that what they needed internally was “…someone with the usual M.B.A. consultant’s background, strong interest in psychology and sociology, and good social-networking skills throughout the organization,” I immediately figured out what was going on here. The same people who were completely out of touch with how Wall Street was doing business are part of the same group who are about as clueless as to how real marketing in a Web 2.0 world works. Seems like the more degrees and education in marketing , the more degrees of separation with the real world and the people that matter most– the consumers.
Have I been too hard here? Maybe. Hey, it’s been a tough year for everyone. I will say with great confidence though that unless marketers get less theory-oriented and more “feet on the street” aware, they are going to get creamed by the competitor that studies less and does more.

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