I can distinctly remember the first time I ever used the internet. It was during the mid 1990’s, and I had no idea how powerful this new “thing” would become. Let me set the scene…
In 1995, I was invited to a local school to test out this new gimmick called “the internet.” I have to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed. As far as my feeble child-like mind could tell, the internet was nothing more than an online library. You typed in what you were looking for, and the interweb spat out some moderately relevant results. It wasn’t efficient, it wasn’t insightful, and it certainly wasn’t user friendly. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t see this catching on.” I had no idea.
(When I was young, my kid moments weren’t documented for the world to see.)
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A Dis-Trust Of Technology
To be fair, I had every right to believe the internet would flop. 20 years ago, humans didn’t trust technology. In 1993, you’d be halfway through an eight page essay, and MS DOS would suddenly decide it’s time for a re-boot. All your work was gone, and you’d have to start from scratch. Do you remember the frustration? Even if you had saved the document, you were relying on some useless, clunky, floppy disk to do the job. Let’s be honest, those ridiculous old disks didn’t inspire much confidence.
But back to the point…
It’s hard to comprehend how important the internet has become in such a short period of time. In 1993, the only person with a cell phone was Zack Morris. In 2013, your grandma has a smartphone synched to her email and Facebook page. In 1993, businesses relied on old school push marketing efforts to instruct consumers what to do. In 2013, businesses are at the mercy of consumers who can gather all the information they want with the push of a button. Consumers have never had so much power. For business owners, perfecting your message and reputation has never been more important. The onus is squarely placed on business owners to adapt, and those who don’t heed the warning are destined to fail.
(When I was in high school, we couldn’t share the experience online.)
Does this sound overly dramatic? Good! I’m not joking when I say the internet has become, and will continue to be, the most important conduit of new business.
The Times, They Are A Changin’
So how can business owners effectively adapt to these changes? The first step towards changing your circumstances is admitting you have a problem. Can you save money by designing a website yourself and trying to master this “search engine optimization” thing? Absolutely. But don’t expect positive results. Would you edit, shoot, and produce a global television commercial on your own? Obviously not.
So here’s the question…
Why would someone outsource the production of a television commercial, but attempt to do all forms of internet marketing in-house? The simple answer is that the television industry has more barriers to entry. In order to get on TV, you need to meet the right people, and you need to pay a lot of money for air time. Conversely, the internet has zero barriers to entry, and all you need is a domain name, a host, and a free WordPress theme. Given the inherent open door nature of the internet, it’s easy to think you can do it all on your own. But here’s something to think about. How can you stay on top of an industry that continues to evolve at a break neck pace?
Think about it, in the span of 20 years technology has gone from practical irrelevance, to indisputable prominence. Everyone has a computer, most people have smartphones, and many people have tablets. More importantly, the internet is taking over every aspect of communication and information sharing. Television and radio are being integrated into the online experience, and traditional print media properties are desperately trying to survive. If the internet was a roller coaster, we are still in the process of reaching the tipping point.
(In 2008 I played hockey overseas, and I was able to document the experience online.)
Here’s a crazy thought. Google and Facebook barely existed seven years ago, and now they are two of the most powerful companies in the world. With this in mind, can you begin to comprehend how technology will change the world in the next 20 years? Education will be completely reformed, the medical industry will do the same, and all business will operate in the online space. Honestly, these tectonic paradigm shifts can be more than a little intimidating. However, similar to anything else in life, you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. The worst thing a business can do is remain stagnant.
It’s Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better
If you feel like you are behind in terms of your online presence right now, you better get a move on. In the words of Police Chief Clancy Wiggum, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. In 2013, a business without an online presence is like someone lost at sea with a life jacket. In 2015, a business without an online presence will be that same person, except they will have an anvil attached to their ankle. Atrophy kills business, and in the digital age it is incumbent upon all of us to be nimble and proactive.
For some people, the internet represents an opportunity to control your brand and get creative. For others, it’s a nuisance. No matter which side of the fence you stand on, these are the new rules of the game. It’s time to respect the game.