Back To The Garden

Remember the song “Woodstock“? Joni Mitchell wrote it, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young made it famous. One lyric is

We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devil’s bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Woodstock

Image via Wikipedia

I thought of that last night as I listened to an excellent discussion of Google+ and Facebook at the tech meet-up I attend monthly. What does one have to do with the other?
When the digital revolution began, it started within walled gardens like AOL and Prodigy.  The content was distributed only to users within the walls, you could find people only if they too were “members”, and searching only generated results for the garden’s content.  That changed rather quickly, and the open internet of web sites became the focal point.  Companies and individuals focused their efforts on build great sites that were open to all and the content was discoverable via search engines and links.

With the growth of Facebook, and now Google+, it feels as if the pendulum is swinging back the other way. To some people, Facebook is the internet – the people and brands with which one might want to interact are building up presences that are not open. No Facebook or G+ account, no access. While a lot of the content is discoverable through search engines, the use of “social signals” to prioritize the results might mean the content out there on the open web is less visible.

So this is the question on my mind this morning: are we headed back to the walled gardens of the early digital age?  Moreover, even if we’re not, is the fact that a business needs to maintain multiple pieces of digital real estate – a Facebook page, a Google+ page, a Twitter feed, a LinkedIn page along with a web site – becoming more costly than it is valuable?  I spend a fair amount of time discussing ROI in these spaces with clients and in all candor there is no single right answer I’ve found.  It’s hard to ignore the almost billion folks who are on Facebook, and Google+ is adding tens of millions of users every month.  How can one NOT be there?  On the other hand, they’re closed systems and imperfect technologies – Facebook keeps changing its basic terminology and data presentation; Google+ gives users a ton of control, but doesn’t permit (yet) the kind of innovative, exciting presentation a brand might want.

What do you think?  How are you using these services both as a consumer and as a business?  How does that compare with the open web, and do you think the walled garden approach is back from the digital dead?  Let me know!

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1 Comment

Filed under digital media

One response to “Back To The Garden

  1. Mike Ritz

    From my perspective, the key change is that now brands can engage in a dialogue with their customers (and even non-customers). In addition, brands can provoke conversation, and then monitor these “outside” conversations to learn — in real time — what consumers are thinking and saying about their product, how they buy the product, how they consume the product and even what they wish from that product.

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