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How do you consume information?

Posted by: The Organ Harvester

The Organ Harvester

 

When Michael Jackson died I read it first on Twitter. When Eugene Terre’Blanche was found beaten to death on his farm I actually read it on @khayadlanga’s Twitter feed. This morning I read about Lolly Jackson’s murder courtesy of Melinda Ferguson’s Facebook update and @khadijapatel’s Twitter feed. What is the point I am making? Information is consumed differently to what it was 5 years ago, hell I’m consuming information differently to the way I was last year.

I never saw the point of Twitter. It was Facebook lite. And if you have ever seen what I look like you know I am not a fan of anything with lite in its name. But it’s not necessarily what you put out as a media consumer but the links to your feed. Specifically, the quality of that feed. I have a mix of personal, technology and news on my Twitter feed. Some people have turned Twitter into cheap SMS. I suppose to each their own.

I was asked the other day about a Facebook fanpage and a twitter feed as a business marketing tool. Like all tools, real world and online, no point in owning it if you are using it incorrectly which is worse than not using it at all. Firstly while companies feel obliged to own a website, what with the proliferation of the Internet (albeit slowly in South Africa) they are more than willing to shell out more than a few skins for a website. Or the direct opposite, find your friend’s cousin’s son who knows about these “Internet thingies.” In which case you get one of two things: Either you get a website which is so poorly designed with pixelated pictures, miscoloured and inconsistent text, bright blinding look and feel, the equivalent of an overly made up hooker in a red dress. When you land at the page, it looks cheap. This is the impression viewers have of your business. And that is the perception they take away with them. The other result is the flash and awe website which looks like a high class hooker, but stillis a hooker. Its aesthetically pleasing but its content is poor, Google never picks it up which means your goal of attracting new visitors to your site and potentially new clients/customers is lost.

Before a business decides on owning a website, find someone reputable to help you set up the website. Yes its much cheaper doing it on your own, but hit a snag and you could be stuck on it for days and you lose motivation and the website gets left. Most times an “expert” is eventually employed to rectify the problems. The business analysis of owning a website should cover a few but important questions:

Why do we want a website? If its to compete with Joe Bloggs because their company owns one, that’s not a good enough reason. Every business is different.

What do we want the website to do? - Pretty flashing pictures are great. They look nice and you can basically look more impressive than your are in real life. But does it keep within the brand’s identity? Will your walk in customers be able to identify with what’s on the web. If online auctions and porn are the biggest traffic generators online, you can’t exactly use that if you sell kiddies clothing in real life?

How will it function? I always advise clients to use a Content Managed System. The main reason is that with this system or type of website you build up a body of work, it’s search engine friendly – the text is Google-able (I made that word up). That is the main problem with many websites. You can’t find them using the number 1 search engine in the world. If your website is designed as an auxiliary to your sales strategy then it needs to be easily searchable. Short, but comprehensible URL, and valuable information. What are your clients looking for? Have they had good experiences? Word of mouth is the best advertising, does your website offer an option to receive feedback from clients and customers? With regard to information, a good trick to attract and keep them coming back is to offer things of value. This can be handy information which people can readily apply. Competitions and interaction. A good example of a South African site which engages with their followers is www.mydl.co.za – My Digital Life. Give them a check out. Its community centred, its engaging and the good folk at My Digital Life run regular promotions and it uses the collective knowledge of its members. And they’re a bunch of nice folks too.

Who will be in charge of the website? This is usually the biggest stumbling block to owning and managing a successful website. What most businesses don’t realise, your website needs good content. That’s important, but they never understand the reason behind having a designated person to update the website. Regularly at that. if you establish a following of regular visitors, the worst thing is having them visit and see that its the same thing they read yesterday. They have consumed that bit of information, digested and asked for more.What are you doing to meet those demands. Obviously its dependant on your particular industry. But such is the nature of online that sporadic updates to no updates will result in folk forgetting about your website. It dies and you just wasted time and money. The days of leaving the website with marketing are over. It needs a geek.  Someone whose sole task is to make sure your message reaches the waves. But the main problem and I have noticed this through my own experiences is that management in general believe that if its easy to do, they’re overpaying you, you have to do other things. There are only so many hours in the day and if you want quality, the position of managing the website needs to be a specialist position. Strong marketing skills are a necessity. Remember the person is influencing perceptions out there, they are communicating therefore they need to understand the big picture.

As for social networking, having a Facebook page with your Logo or brand is not enough. because members might flock to in the beginning but what are you doing to keep them and attract more? Twitter is great too but do you have folk following you? Do you keep them updated regularly? What are you giving your consumers without them having to put a hand into their pocket first? Remember this is the web, your are competing on a global scale with everything from generic Viagra to discount knock-off watches. You need to stand out and you need to be memorable. But you also need to understand the why before erecting these online tools. If you are offering value, your message will be repeated, if not, people will just step over you and move on.

The net is not magic and will not solve your problems if management sucks. Sorry there was no other way to describe that. You can sell anything on the web and make alot of money. People will keep coming back regardless if its woollen booties or big rubber dicks, it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t take the piss people will keep coming back. Having any or all of the above is no guarantee of miraculously striking it rich if you run your business like an idiot. The fundamentals still apply.

Social media might change the way immediacy and frequency we consume information, but the bottom line is that you have to appeal to your market in order to secure it. Build up a body of work. Its not all over night. Build up confidence in your followers of you brand and be consistent. The twitter and Facebook experience is there to encourage two way communication and adds on to your efforts. I repeat, it doesn’t magically transform rubbish planning and strategy.

Hamish

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