For the last few months, Fridays are the days when I step back from the day-to-day programming work I do for clients, and instead focus on growing my business and figuring out what applications or tools or directions will help us take the next step. So today I’ve been exchanging some emails with my longtime friend Lily, who is a very smart marketer (and co-founder of Zing, in fact). Below is a snippet of our conversation, which I thought was worth saving somewhere.
I’ve noticed a lot of agencies which formerly did web design or marketing are now re-branding themselves as “new media” companies. Basically I think that means they mess around with Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and blogs. And honestly I haven’t been very impressed with the handful of such agencies I’ve worked with (because my clients hired them and then asked me to work with them). It’s sort of like the companies who do SEO: they tend to overpromise and underdeliver, and their level of savviness about the web and about the technology inherent in these things is frighteningly low.
I’ve had many clients ask about “getting on Facebook” or “setting up Twitter” and I’ve thought about how to best approach that. In the end I think the real value that Zing brings to the table is super cool programming and software integration that other companies just can’t do. Our custom apps always impress people, and we plug into databases and accounting systems and RSS feeds and whatever in ways that I don’t see a lot of other companies doing. Most agencies that advertise themselves like we do are really taking Drupal (a free CMS) and tweaking a few layouts and calling it “programming”. I’m not saying that’s bad, but it’s definitely not at the level of what we do.
So in the end, I think repositioning Zing to be a “new media” company would be unwise. We could jump on the Facebook bandwagon and start spouting all of that kind of stuff, but there’s a lot of competition in that space (some good, and most not so good) and in the end I think in a year or so Facebook and/or Twitter will be replaced by something else. Look at MySpace: two years ago it was The Next Big Thing, and now it’s a ghost town because Facebook eclipsed it. Things move really fast in the web world these days, and hitching all of your hopes to a wagon like that is a short-term gain but a long-term dead end.
All that being said, I don’t want to give you the impression I’m turning my back on social media or refusing to work on it. On the contrary, we’ve been talking internally about how to better tie our CMS and intranet tools into Facebook and Twitter and WordPress. We recognize they’re important facets of web marketing, and it’s dumb to ignore them. But at the same time, we’re keeping our core competencies where I think we’re best: custom programming and complicated database development.