David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

Should We Be Building A Better Mousetrap?

twendz-advert1I couldn’t help but smile this morning when I stumbled across a hard copy of PR Week and saw the advert for Twendz, Waggener Edstrom’s Twitter aggregator, not least because Bite features in the ad as one of the biggest conversation topics at SXSW (or at least that’s what I think it said!). What’s more, the irony of taking out a full page ad for a social media tool also wasn’t lost on me!

What is perhaps more interesting though is the trend of marketing companies, PR or Ad agencies, building tools and technology platforms which are designed to aggregate content. In addition to Twendz, Fallon also announced Skimmer, a desktop app designed to skim content from multiple social media sources. I should say they originally announced the intent to launch -presumably they were worried about someone else beating them to it. Then this morning I noticed that Yahoo! has launched Sideline, yet another Twitter monitoring tool.

It took me back to 2000 when I was at Firefly in the UK and we developed an application, Firewatch, which used Autonomy’s nascent search technology to automate newsfeeds. It was pretty cool but then along came the Google Reader and Google News. Google did a better job!

My question is: should agencies be building these sorts of content aggregation tools or should we leave it to the media companies themselves? Would agencies be better off choosing the best of breed tools developed by other businesses whose sole focus is to build these tools? My view is that someone will always build a better mousetrap in an age when the barrier to entry is pretty much zero so we are better off using the best tools out there for the job. One tool is unlikely to meet all clients’ needs.

That doesn’t mean agencies shouldn’t build applications. But maybe an agency should focus on building tools that analyze data and create real insights from it rather than just building a better content aggregation mouse trap only to be left looking at the same old information. We should leave the commodity business of building monitoring tools to the experts.

Now if we could build an application that could use existing web analytics data to track in real time the movements of an influential audience segment so that we could pinpoint them – now that would be cool.

Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media

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