I’ve just come back from a panel called Beyond Web 2.0 at Berytech Mansourieh, as part of Social Media Week Beirut. The discussion revolved around four broad questions. What’s being done right in social media? What’s being done wrong. How do we evolve and what is in store for the future.

That’s a hell of a lot to get through in roughly an hour! But the panellists, including our very own CEO Cyril Hadji-Thomas, did their best and provide the gathered geeks with some food for thought.

Stefan Bazan kicked things off as moderator by reminding everyone what brought about web 2.0 in the first place. It was mainly an evolution in knowledge and capacity to use technology which was couple with a failure of old school unidirectional web marketing.

Boudy Nasrallah, of branding and design agency Wonder Eight, told the audience that regardless of what technology you’re using, marketing is still about the product. Drawing a revolutionary distinction between normal adveritisng and social media advertising is like saying there’s a difference between advertising on a big fat TV from the 90s and an LCD screen.

Cyril intervened to remind everyone, that it’s all well and good to build traffic and drive everyone to your website, but if you don’t give them anything interesting once they’re there, and you don’t convert them, what’s the point? People who are naturally interested in what you do will come to you regardless, and they’ll use what you’re offering if it’s what they need. The conversion rate is the best indicator of an audience’s responsiveness.

Boudy made a very valid point about Lebanon being a tiny market, which amplifies the fact that projects should be about quality rather than quantity in terms of response, since there is no real quantity to speak of.

We can’t think of the world as disjointed anymore, according to Cyril. We have to see everything as an ecosystem, and we have to see ourselves as part of it. Being aware of what is around us is the best way to ensure we connect with it.

Once you start communicating online, you can’t stop anymore. And even if you get negative feedback, that’s not a bad thing, because they would happen anyway. At least you’re there to be part of the conversation, and maybe fix what you’re doing wrong. It’s not about chastising your clients; it’s about making sure you’re giving them what they want.

At the end, I ventured a question. It seems to me like the main stumbling block in the successful marriage between technology and marketing is the lag. For example, when advertisers knew they were working with TV, that technology was around for decades. So they could fine-tune their methods, and they had plenty of time to adapt to changes to the variables. Today, the major websites and hardware providers roll out new products, sometimes groundbreakingly new, at a moment’s notice. Marketers and creatives then spend months grappling with the developments and trying to adapt their message to it. And by the time they’re starting to get it, the technology goes and changes. A simple solution would be a greater integration of tech and business, bringing the geeks and the creatives closer together from the onset. It mind send things in an interesting direction.

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