A Digital Dependency Intervention
Social media sites and digital media are not doing your business any long term favours. An overdependence on them means your business can be held to ransom at any time.
Google’s recent dropping of Authorship highlights just how cavalier many tech companies are with providing real service to your business.
It’s not just Google: Facebook is infamous for continually changing the ground rules, often in highly questionable ways.
‘Yeah it used to be free to talk to all your own friends, but now you have to pay for it.”
Or in Google’s case they simply drop services they are no longer interested in.
Even Linkedin is guilty of this.
Its management have made no secret of the fact that they’ve ditched being a professional networking service and now want to be a media company.
Such behaviour should be a warning to all businesses large and small that you simply can’t trust or rely on these companies for major chunks of your revenue.
By all means use and take advantage of these platforms, just don’t tie your business future to them.
Corporate Attention Deficit Disorder
Tech companies’ continual habit of dropping services they once heavily promoted has been called Corporate Attention Deficit Disorder by Paul Wallbank.
“..management find a bright shiny thing, play with it for a while then get bored and wander off.”
“…the manager or founder who drives the project – gets bored, promoted or sacked and the project loses its driving force within the organisation. Without that driving force the service stagnates and eventually the company closes it down.”
Whatever you call it, it should be clear by now that these companies are not doing you any long-term favours.
Those of you familiar with risk management will know that any time you rely on a third party for a large part of your business (revenue) you are in trouble because they can take that business away from you at any time.
Or, as is so often the case, hold you to ransom.
Sadly that is exactly the situation so many businesses are in today.
I’ve met with prospective clients who proudly boast that 80% of their revenue comes from Adwords or that they are completely social.
To which I almost always involuntary respond: “Are you nuts?”
It doesn’t matter what the platform is - eBay, Adwords, AirBnB, Facebook etc – having someone else control that much of your financial destiny is always a bad idea.
Never Ending Sunk Costs
As we’ve seen with Google Authorship, many businesses invested time and money in getting it set up with the aim of helping it boost their search engine performance, online credibility, branding and social profile.
All of that effort and money is now lost.
We’ve seen this scenario repeated over and over again especially with search engine optimisation, but also with Adwords, social media and indeed web development.
Business owners eventually get tired of the never ending cost of redoing everything every year (month) and either no longer trust anyone in the digital space or simply don’t care what they say.
I’ve highlighted this issue before in Business Owners Don’t Trust Web Developers
So What’s the Answer?
It goes without saying that we can’t ignore digital. It accounts for 5% of most countries GDP and is growing at more than 10% per year, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
Such growth is considerably more than the other sectors of these economies, so there is obvious financial opportunity and attraction, but let’s not gets totally seduced by it.
The obvious answer is to make sure your business revenue comes from multiple channels all healthily split, both offline and online.
An even better solution is of course is to do what smart businesses have always done, and that is build and manage your own direct connection with your customers and audience.
Modern examples are Amazon and Apple. Neither of these companies needs Google or social media to communicate with their customers. They both have direct connection ecosystems in place that allow them to communicate directly to their customers.
Both companies can completely bypass search engines, social media and the web to generate their revenue. Social media and search may facilitate some of the communication, but it’s not essential to them.
Now, More Than Ever, Build Your List
A more traditional way is to simply have an email list or a database of your customers.
Once you have that, it doesn’t matter what the big tech companies do, you will always have options to communicate with your own customers: email, phone, direct mail, apps even face to face.
It won’t matter what new technologies come along, you will always be able to use them to service your customers.
Central to this is the need to have your own website (or digital presence) that you control.
While there are all sorts of platforms and services out there that allow you to have an online presence without the need for your own website, it again comes back to a risk management and sound business strategy.
If you control your own data and content, then you will avoid being held over a barrel by overly zealous social media and digital service companies.
Get Off The Digital Hamster Wheel
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that digital is the centre of the universe and that we must do social, search or YouTube.
Unfortunately that puts the focus on the technology and not your business goal or your customer. Such thinking will put you on the technology hamster wheel forever.
MediaCom's Jon Hook explains that despite the rise of digital and mobile, nothing’s fundamentally changed about marketing and business.
Australia’s marketing iconoclast Malcom Auld lists numerous ways businesses have for communicating with their customers which are not reliant on digital:
television, radio, press, print, mail, catalogues, sales people, retail stores, trade shows, telephone, sms, promotions, posters, brochures, sponsorship, videos, CDs, events, multi-level-marketing, joint ventures.
They may be old fashioned and unsexy, but they will minimise your risk and help you put your marketing in perspective.
Update:No sooner had I published this when I came across these two posts:
“Organic” is Dead, Say Hello to the Age of Paid Media from Social Mouths.
As I said at the start, they have many of you over a barrel and are now demanding the ransom.
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