I was around at the start of the digital era – a lifetime ago. The new messiahs were the web developers. They practiced dark arts that few of us understood at the time. They charged a lot of money. This is fair enough, I guess. While specialist skills and knowledge are scarce resources, those possessing them can command a premium price. The window of opportunity would not be open for ever, and today good web development is understood by far more people and prices have bottomed out.
SEO – the web’s new clothes.
Next opportunity was presented by ‘search’. Those who explored the Google algorithm with gun and camera acquired knowledge and skills which they exploited. The new gurus flourished for a while. Made some handsome profits but eventually we all saw through the fog and most people started to handle their own SEO or employed a new generation of reasonably priced suppliers.
Social media measurers or purveyors of snake oil?
With the blossoming of social media, the opportunities were less clear. By definition, it is… well, social. We were all doing it. But, unlike the web or search, measurement, data collection (beyond counting tweets and likes) and analysis is rather more complex and muddy. Welcome on the scene the social media measurement companies.
As in the previous examples, those early on the scene gathered knowledge and honed their approaches and, quite legitimately seek to profit. When their wagons roll into town promising answers to all our ills, will we part with our hard-earned currency? Possibly… but I have a nagging worry about the approach.
The current business model seems to be:
- We will give you a slew of free (and very good) monitoring tools. You will be amazed by the data we can gather.
- But now, if you want the tools to make sense of that data, the analysis services to read those particular chicken entrails, we will charge a large fee.
As I said at the outset, I have no problem people profiting from their hard-won expertise. But at the moment, most honest suppliers of those services are saying that it is not easy. Goals are hard to define – success is a slippery measure.
I’m going to sit back and watch people drink the various elixirs and see who flourishes and who rushes into the bushes clutching their stomachs.