Get the Internet to Work for Your Company

A question I received this week was, “What is the single most important thing to do so the Internet works best for your company?”

Ask this of 5 consultants and you will likely get about 43 different answers.  That said, I put forth my answer with the caveat that the Internet is so insanely dynamic that things can change rapidly and pretty radically.  OK, then….

I believe the most important thing you can do is create a strategy and plan that maps to your business goals and the value those goals state.  The second most important thing is to execute effectively on that plan. I know that sounds pretty basic, but it’s scary how many companies have not taken the time or expended sufficient effort to this end. Not having a digital strategy for your business is not only foolhardy but leaves aside one of the single biggest opportunities for you. Whatever purpose you chose for your efforts online (beyond establishing a de facto web site as a digital business portal…also, see this earlier post that lists the seven things that social media marketing does for your business…), actually choosing that purpose, doing the work so your efforts align and are measurable, and then effectively executing on the plan will make it much more likely that you will be successful.

I realize this sounds like Basic Business 101, but in my experience this is the single area where businesses miss the boat. For whatever reason, ‘digital’ bamboozles them. This could be for any number of reasons, including:
  • Familiarly breeds confusion – the Internet, from the users’ point of view, has been around for quite some time. We use it constantly for an enormous number things, but when challenged to change the focus to business value, that different point of view is a larger leap than many can make easily.  We’ve used it so long one way it becomes very hard to view it differently.
  • Technology phobia – for a number of other users, the Internet is all about technology. They feel that they may be required to learn programming skills and arcane ‘special’ knowledge just to be able to function. Taking pictures of your boat and posting it to Facebook is one thing, but analyzing your business’s Facebook Insights is another.
  • Severe feelings of inadequacy – the Internet is a 24/7 tsunami of content. Many users, while enjoying it as consumers, are utterly intimidated by it when confronted with the proposition that they take part in some kind of ‘stream origination’. They are overwhelmed with the thought of quality, quantity and frequency…..again, since the Internet is ‘always on’ they think they have to be, too.
  • Change avoidance – We all acknowledge change. I know a few people who say they thrive on change, although I have my doubts. Many, many more people businesses I know and have observed are much more interested in change avoidance rather than change management. Something they have done in their business has worked well for a while, but customers’ needs have changed, and the technology and the economy have both moved on from that point in time. A business may have made a small, knee-jerk effort to “get on social”…usually create a Facebook page. When nothing happens, they chalk it up to their prejudices about social and turn back to tried-and-true.
Addressing each of these usually means getting some kind of assistance. Whether from books, research, webinars, workshops, consultants or some mix of these, getting help to work through these is crucial to staying in business today.  A few simple ways to start:
  • Familiarity breeds confusion – do an online search using the phrase “<Some Social Media Channel> for business” (for example, Facebook for Business). Don’t be intimidated by the number of results you get. Click through on one or two that have authoritative authors (Facebook’s content on Facebook for Business is good, for example) and are also recent (don’t chose information from 3 years ago).  Start getting familiar with how the thinking, use and processes are different for businesses.
  • Technology phobia – You do not need to be an engineer to be able to manage a Twitter account. You don’t need to be an analyst to see if a Twitter post performed better than another Twitter post. It is in the interest of each social media channel to make their services attractive and easy to use for business owners. Again, search for some free training and how-tos (HubSpot has an enormous amount of free content to help you and there are a few things on my site as well….) and Don’t Panic.
  • Severe feelings of inadequacy – There is a lot to be said about how to approach your activities online in a way that best fits your strengths and resources. As assurance, believe me when I say that every post need not be Hemingway, each photo need not be Adams, and each comment need not be the Dalai Lama. You are an expert in what you do and there are ways for you to express that online. For some ideas, check out Jay Baer’s book “Youtility” and posts and podcasts by Mack Collier and Jeff Bullas, to call out just a couple.
  • Change avoidance – If the avoidance called out here is yours, as an entrepreneur, I would be surprised. Most entrepreneurs have to make constant changes to their processes and offerings to stay competitive and feed their creative impulse. Businesses with more employees or of longer standing may have more problems. There are any number of ways to start moving your business toward more effective processes and a culture and, while not embracing change like a long lost sister, will make the discussion a bit easier and the long-term a bit less painful. I would recommend articles from the Harvard Business Review, ForbesITIL and Prosci.
The question this week is huge and hard to answer definitively. I would really be interested in what you feel is the single most important thing. Please let me know in the comments.

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