(Disclaimer: The two statements below might seem idiotic – but please give me the benefit of the doubt, at least for another paragraph or two…)

1. Google is dying

2. Social media marketing should not be aimed at monitoring the brand impact of ad campaigns

Ok, so the first one is kinda obviously an overblown, attention-seeking bit of hot air, while the second is on a slightly less apocalyptic level – though it too provides an example of a direct negation of current zeitgeist thinking on a particular web topic.

Both however, are taken from fairly thought-provoking pieces which are proving to be interesting talking points on a couple of popular tech blogs (judging by the number of intensely-worded coments that each is generating) – on The Guardian and Mashable respectively.

I’ve decided to link them here as I think both offer some genuinely fascinating points, albeit ones which contradict the received wisdom (perhaps the reason why they’re attracting some intense debates in the comments sections).

Anyway, the first is taken from a lecture by Roger McNamee (US investor and musician) from a conference earlier in the year – but which has now been made available in full as a video online. The talk is generally being accused of being another example of Apple Fanboism (McNamee is very harsh on Google – at one point blaming them for turning the web into a sea of crap – though there is a little more to his theory than just this soundbyte), all the while proclaiming Apple as the saviour of content creators who actually wish to profit from their work.

It’s quite hard to fit a full summary in here, and there’s no doubt that there is some clear bias (and a fair bit of complete tosh) in McNamee’s thesis, but I still consider it to be an interesting account of what has been happening in the tech world over the past 15 years or so, especially in terms of his thoughts on the following:

1. The consequences of Google’s policy of using a clean search interface which, even in the results, displays every site result equally in terms of graphic design/layout etc (regardless of what the site actually looks like, Google shows it as a bit of blue text on a white background).

According to McNamee, this is just one way in which Google undermines professional content creators’ efforts to brand themselves online. Apparently, it means that those who invest in graphic and aesthetic design for branding and marketing purposes are having their work negated, at least at the web search stage, by Google’s search result interface. (This is where the sea of crap idea comes in – McNamee believes Google thus unfairly assists those who do not produce quality products/sites/brands by placing them on equal footing with those who do).

So the idea is basically that, as a result, we now use specialised search tools for specific things (Wikipedia for info, Twitter for news, Facebook for ‘matters of taste’ as McNamee has it) as the general search tool of Google now gives us too much of what we don’t want (that sea of crap again).

An interesting narrative of how Google’s search interface might relate to the popularity of certain mobile apps (though I personally think that the size of the mobile device’s screen has a bit to do with it as well). Nonetheless, it is an interesting idea, and one I’ve not heard too much before, even though McNamee’s examples, such as Twitter being a source of news, somewhat undermine his overall hypothesis sadly.

2. McNamee reckons that, since Google makes no money from Android, its stake in the mobile market is irrelevant from a business perspective and that thus, when the day arrives that most searches are done via specific mobile apps, Google’s significance (based on the current dominance of its web search) will be greatly reduced.

This of course posits that Google will be entirely unsuccesful with every other product that they’re currently developing over the next few years, which I reckon is somewhat absurd (even Microsoft, the biggest one trick pony of them all, has scored at least a handful of post-Windows hits; xBox, IE 9 etc). Nonetheless, it is interesting to consider the future value of the web search market, and the extent to which Google’s future depends on it.

3. McNamee sees Apple as a company which fundamentally ignores the world wide web in terms of how its products work and make money (they use the internet of course, and can thus access the web, but fundamentally Apple’s revenue model could continue undisturbed even if every website in the world suddenly disappeared).

So, essentially we have a consideration of Apple’s walled garden approach to designing technology products, considered in the context of a future world of mobile computing which increasingly renders the web ever more closed and ‘walled off’. Ok it might make Apple products annoying (in my eyes at least), but it also places the company in a great position to dominate mobile computing which is much more comfortable with the walled garden concept.

Anyway, these are just the thoughts which I found most interesting on there, there’s plenty more to ponder over on the Guardian blog where a clip of the lecture is posted (the full thing is also available over at Fora.tv)

Now for the second thought-provocation of the day, which comes in the way of a guest post over at Mashable, detailing how most social media marketing falls down in its use of social data, not because the tools that are being used are inadequate – but instead because the goals to which they are being put to use are unsuitable and/or unfeasable.

The main point is that social data usually has a few key characteristics which often get forgotten when we design methods for using it in business and marketing (often imagining the data to be more ideal and comprehensive than it is). In fact it is usually quite limited in the following ways:

1. Social data is often based on small sample sizes
2. Social creators aren’t necessarily representative of your audience
3. Social data usually measures extremes

However there are still uses to which it can be put, especially if we have acknowledge these limitations to the data:

  • Source your creative.
  • Improve your media plan.
  • Identify your key influencers.
  • React to your consumers.

Anyway, I’ll leave it there so you can check the post for yourself, but the bottom line is that if you’re unsure about the effectiveness of your social media strategy, often the best way to go about a re-think is to return right back to the beginning and reconsider what data social media provides you with – rather than build a plan around a body of data which it could provide you with, in theory, but actually rarely does in practice.