It strikes me that there are too many agencies in the ‘new media landscape’ these days running around with hammers calling everything they see a nail. Their mindset seems to be that social media/SEO ploys/mobile apps/whatever’s headlining on Mashable today is the answer to everything.

Oh, don’t get me wrong – these things all have their place. The problem is that almost no-one can seem to agree on exactly where that place is, because they tend to fall into one of two camps: hype merchants or naysayers.

The hype merchants (generally agency-side) run around proclaiming that ‘new thing X’ must be exactly what every company needs. The naysayers (frequently client-side) won’t have a bar of it, failing to recognise that sometimes ‘new thing X’ is exactly what a company needs.

What we need from both sides is some balance. And balance is achieved by understanding the importance of context.

For instance, we have a Twitter feed for our agency, but it’s not a big focus of our efforts or attention. You’re also currently reading the only (semi-) regular blog I write, which you’ll note isn’t hosted on our own website. Why? Because we recognise that the world doesn’t need another advertising agency trying to tweet its way into people’s consciousness, or mindlessly posting ‘fresh new content’ on its own blog just for the sake of it, when that’s not where the readers are. Blogs can be a really great tool for a company, but context says they’re never likely to be a major tool for us.

Likewise, an industry insider observed that a recent site we’d built wasn’t created with SEO in mind. He was right, of course, but there was a good reason for that: the client is one of only four major providers in their industry, and all their work comes via a tendering process. Their website isn’t there to be discovered via Google, it’s a reference point for when potential customers want to do some background research.

Context is about knowing what tool to use and when to use it. The question should no longer be whether or not social media, mobile apps, SEO ploys and the like are tools; it should move to discussion about when is it best to use them. Clearly, the current all-or-nothing mentality can’t last for long.

After all, no-one ever built a house using only a hammer – but I’d wager that few people have ever built a house without one either.