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The internet marketing industry needs a reality check

I just read an interesting post over at Search Engine Land by Greg Sterling. He gives some information about a study recently done that measured the impact of real-time search results in Google. (For the uninitiated, “real-time search” is the ability of Google and other search engines to return content in the search results that might be mere minutes old, such as newly-minted blog entries, Facebook status updates, and tweets, rather than returning only the traditional Web pages and other content that might have been published far earlier than the search being performed.)

Twitter Search Interface: #dexter

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To cut to the chase, I can tell you that the impact is minimal at best. Sterling’s articles are always informative and insightful and in this one I think he hit the nail on the head with the following sentence:

While there’s enormous hype and coverage among tech-insiders about “real time search,” the public doesn’t really understand (or perhaps care) what the fuss is all about.

I say he hit the nail on the head, only because he is echoing something I have felt and said for some time. My position, however, is not particularly popular in Internet marketing circles because it’s a classic “I call BS!” position.
You see, I spend a good portion of my day reading about the latest and greatest in Internet marketing. This is never just reported though because everyone needs to add their opinion to each story because that’s how we become “important.” Important to whom, you ask? Mostly to each other inside the industry. This little popularity play leads to some interesting assumptions about just how important all of these earth-shattering Internet marketing developments really are to the public at large. That group,, by the way is significantly larger than anyone would care to admit
So back to Greg’s comment. He is at least willing to admit that “the public” likely doesn’t understand or even care about what we in the industry will prattle on about for weeks, as if world peace had been achieved. Don’t get me wrong, I do it as well, but I have become less comfortable with it. Why? Because my non-industry friends (which make up about 95% of my friends) don’t give a hoot about real-time search. They don’t know what it is and they actually don’t care. I don’t need to assume it. I know it. They couldn’t care less.
Now, here’s the catch. These are people that use the Internet and social media a lot. They are not online novices by any stretch of the imagination. They have really good jobs, make nice livings, have families, and much more. In addition, they don’t care about the latest and greatest toy that Google or Apple or anyone else has developed. They have too much living to do to worry about this stuff. They use Google to answer a lot of questions but wouldn’t even have a clue about how to do an advanced search let alone wonder about real-time search. Oh, and one other thing: They are online marketing’s prime targets, “Wouldn’t it be better to truly understand how the vast majority of people use the tools that we talk about all the time, rather than assume that everyone does what we do?” Maybe the industry struggles at times because we completely miss the point: Most people simply don’t care about the details. They want results. They don’t have time to waste and they are not all under the age of 30 and completely wired (which I contend is another foolish myth we like to perpetuate).
So, do you agree or disagree? Are we just a bunch of self-serving insiders that have lost touch with the actual users of these tools, or am I just whining? Let’s hear it.

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