Is online marketing the new dot.com?

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Here’s a question: is online marketing the new dot.com?  (Hint: the answer is “yes.”)

I don’t pretend to be an economist, but bear with me here.  When Facebook went public in 2012, there was no real revenue model, no real plan, and the economy was stagnant.  The company targeted a $38 opening stock price, which it couldn’t legitimately garner.  Bankers scrambled to make it happen and the world cried foul.

Guess what?  Facebook is currently trading at $50.24, and everyone on the planet still uses it to post pictures of their children in snowsuits.  For now.

In 2013, Twitter headed for the public markets with lessons in hand from the Facebook “debacle” (I struggle to call what is now a $120B company a true misfire).  Smooth sailing, sneaking under the radar at a measly current market cap of around $28B and now trading at the same price as FB.

Forbes.com would have us look at all the ways these IPOs were different.  But surprise!  They’re actually very much alike in the most important way: once again…no real revenue model, no real plan, no clear economic picture.  Just a giant, overly communicative audience at their fingertips.  In the end, the markets bought bandwidth, and little else.

Certainly there’s tremendous value there, as the world runs on connectivity.  There is no shortage of ways in which these platforms can evolve and serve as launchpads to great new ideas and products.  They factor into our daily marketing strategies and serve as a common touchpoint for audiences across every industry.  The question is whether the current iterations will  translate into long term viable business models, or go down in flames and give rise to a phoenix we haven’t yet imagined?

Here’s where I flashback to 2000, though, and this crazy thing called the Internet.  You’re launching a website, you say?  How will you make money?  What’s that, Pets.com, Flooz.com, and theGlobe.com?  Oh, I see: “if you build it online, they will come.”

[Sound of U.S. economy collapsing]

The way we communicate globally is nothing short of miraculous, and creates an incredible new pair of pants into which marketing will grow.  In our glorious tradition, though, we’re assuming value before the fabric is fully cut; my hope for 2014 is that we can find the seams  before we get, well, too big for our britches.

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