In downtown Wheaton, IL – not too far from where I both grew up and where I currently live – there’s a little store called The Popcorn Shoppe. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s little. The store is deep from the sidewalk but across it’s about five feet. Long, but narrow.
At the Popcorn Shoppe you can get a variety of candy, as well as popcorn. Bins are set up along one wall with everything from pre-packaged candy like miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to open candy like gummy worms that’s priced by the half-pound. So you go in, squeeze through the other customers, use the little shovels that are in each bin to grab a little of a whole bunch of stuff then do more squeezing to make it to the cash register and maybe pick up a bag of popcorn while you’re there. It’s a quaint, fun little place, but one of those places only the locals really know about.
The Popcorn Shoppe sprung to mind when a meme started yesterday about how many of us are, apparently, drunk on the Web 2.0 juice, a concoction stirred and served up on virtual street corners by many of those currently decrying the situation.
When I think about the variety of Web 2.0 applications, features and tools available in October of 2007 it can sometimes seem overwhelming, much like the wall of the store. I look at them and can’t imagine using all of them but I know that there are a few that I definitely want to pick up and use. Others seem like a good idea at the time but when I try them out I’m disappointed and regret the time/money I spent on something that didn’t live up to my expectations.
For those of us who work in online public relations it’s important that we evaluate the tools that debut seemingly every day not only for ourselves but also for how they might benefit our clients. Not everything is going to be for everyone and we need to not be so enraptured by the shiny object the just flitted in front of our eyes that we lose all perspective. ‘What does this do?” “What need does this meet?” “What gap does this fill?” “How does this increase connections/engagement?” These are just a sampling of questions we need to be asking ourselves whenever the latest thing debuts.
These questions can often only be answered by trying them out. TechCrunch’s descriptions and write-ups only go so far. You have to dig in and see what sticks. Once you do that you gain perspective and then can rationally and more accurately opine on the topic to both the public and, for PR practitioners, your clients.