Original insights in international business and marketing
With all the ever-growing attention being devoted to digital marketing and social media these days, it begs the question of whether this is a passing trend or whether it is here to stay. Are we witnessing just another fad or is this a tectonic shift that is forever altering the business landscape? Fair question.
As a global society, we do have a natural tendency to regularly go overboard on some things. I’ve often said that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. History is filled with examples of frenzied obsessions that end as abruptly as they have started. From Dutch Tulip-mania several hundred years ago to the more recent examples of the dot-com bubble and the US real-estate crash, we’ve all seen fads sweep the imagination of millions only to leave a trail of disillusion and broken dreams.
So is digital marketing and its associated elements (content creation, social media & SEO optimization) going to behave the same way? I hope not. I think not.
Lets explore some of the reasons why this is not likely to be the case:
It’s fun. While this is probably not a compelling reason in and of itself, I am convinced it is an important one to consider. The shifts we are experiencing are very exciting both on a personal and professional level. They connect us in unprecedented ways and they also create unimaginable opportunities, possibilities and connections. This is all very liberating (intoxicating?) and profoundly enjoyable on so many levels. As long as it remains fun and enjoyable, it has some legs to run on.
It’s empowering. The advent of the digital, web-enabled revolution has democratized our world in fundamental ways. By shifting the focus away from classical outbound marketing (advertising, e-mail blasts, etc…) towards more inbound activities (content driven, relationship based, etc…), marketing is no longer the exclusive domain of elite PR or advertising agencies. Anybody with a message and interest can find a platform with which they can reach out and interact with like-minded individuals.
It’s creative. Think of the combined power of what bringing millions of people together can do. From all regions, from all backgrounds, from all cultures, people are sharing ideas and insights in real time. The world will witness a level of original idea, creation and inspiration the likes of which mankind has never seen before.
It’s real-time. We are now in a unique position to track, measure and respond to customers on a real-time basis. This gives organizations the ability to be extremely agile and responsive, potentially significantly shortening development cycles while greatly improving customer service.
It’s societal. Unlike with other cultural or technological advances that were highly targeted or of value to only a few groups, this one is universal and spans all segments of society. Young, old, rich, poor, male, female, educated, uneducated; everyone can participate, contribute and enjoy the connected experience.
It’s (almost) free. Everyone with an electronic connection can participate to their heart’s content. Costs of the equipment (PC, tablet, phone,…) and the connection to the web are dropping precipitously thereby enabling more and more people to enter the digital mainstream. While businesses will inevitably bear the bulk of the infrastructure, system and content costs, these will be considerably outweighed by the many benefits (and cost savings!) that are there for the taking.
It’s rewarding. Whether personally, professionally or financially, people can lead more rewarding and productive lives. Search for friends and partners on-line. Build a network and search for work. Find a creative outlet to sell your creations, services or ideas. Make informed purchase decisions that allow you to get exactly what you want at the best price, directly at or near your home. The possibilities are endless but they all combine to improve our productivity and therefore the quality of our lives.
It’s just starting. Perhaps best of all, we are still in the early days of this mega shift. Who knows what other enhancements and societal implications lie just around the bend? For sure, not all will be innocuous or without side effects (Job loses? Increased isolation?). But a movement that creates more connectedness, more efficiencies and more interdependence within our societies, can only bring us closer and improve the quality of life for billions.
In spite, of all these benefits, certain elements are likely to be carried into a frothy frenzy. It’s almost inevitable. The key is to take bold risks and actively engage in the digitally enabled mediums without necessarily risking the whole farm or abandoning tried and true, traditional methods. Just like investing, a certain amount of diversification without overweighting high-risk, high-reward asset classes is probably the best move for most businesses.
All in all, a good dose of skepticism in all things is healthy if not inevitable, but it should not prevent you from recognizing when societal change and opportunity are about to move from the fringes into the mainstream. Don’t be the last one to get on the bus.