The Internet is a pretty amazing tool for business—so long as you know how to use it. It is essential to understand that the Internet doesn’t work like more traditional forms of media. The Internet has changed the way that businesses and consumers interact. In order to help you understand this new paradigm here are a few of the key concepts essential to success on the Internet – especially in the blogosphere.
- It’s not just about having an open mind; it’s about having an open strategy. You can’t control the Internet. Once you put something out there for the world to consume, assume that they will consume it but not just in the format you offered. It doesn’t matter if it’s audio, video, text, software, hardware or any other service—they’ll want to use it in ways that you can’t even imagine.
- Piracy is the sincerest form of digital flattery. Which problem would you rather deal with: people stealing your intellectual property, or people ignoring it altogether? It’s a tough call, but if you empower your audience instead of offending them with restrictions, you stand a better chance of succeeding.
- Mind-share is equally as important as market-share. You can’t have a share of the market if your product isn’t on the minds of the people in that market. If your brand has been mentioned seven times inside your own social circle it’s well on its way to being adopted by the market. Pay attention to your mind-share in the marketplace, but remember you can’t quantify everything: Brand is virtually untrackable.
- “Viral” is a buzzword, not a marketing strategy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a PR agent prattle on about how they have an amazing campaign in the works. I cut these people off mid-explanation and grill them on the meaning behind their catchphrases and what they hope to gain at the end of the day. Most of them don’t have an answer. You’d be surprised to learn that most marketing and PR professionals don’t have a clue about how the Internet works.
- Community creates itself. Just because you install some forum software doesn’t mean people are going to be beating down the doors to get through. It’s good to have a structure for a community If it’s gaining little traction however, it’s probably not a software problem. If people aren’t interested in what you have to offer, maybe what you have to offer isn’t all that interesting.
- Press releases are dead. Don’t stop issuing official documents that explain what’s happening inside your company. I’m warning you though, these things are on their way out as far as the global conversation is concerned. The name of the game is interaction. You’re simply shouting at brick walls with one-way distributions.
- Join the conversation. It’s not just about having a blog, a podcast or an account on MySpace or YouTube—it’s about engaging your existing customers directly on their own turf, and attracting potential customers through similar means. The world doesn’t work for you or your company—they’ll see it differently than you do. Your approach should reflect this reality.
- People trust people, not companies. Make your name(s) known and be as accessible as you can afford to be. When problems arise your biggest supporters will appreciate being able to connect with another person instead of getting lost in a voice mail maze. Your users will be comforted to know that another human being is going to help rectify their issue. Who hasn’t felt the frustration of “talking” to a machine when all you needed was to ask a simple question?
- Transparency is crucial. The Internet has a built-in BS detector. It won’t take long for people to see through any kind of double-speak. If you did something wrong, admit it before people call you on it. The worst thing you can do is sweep something under the rug in the hopes that nobody will ever notice. Dude, it’s the Internet—someone will eventually realize what you’ve done. Your brand stands to suffer if you don’t admit your own mistakes.
If your product sucks, make it better. Don’t just throw money at a problem it only makes a more expensive problem. Worse yet is pitching resources into a marketing, PR, or branding exercise for a product that sucks. Don’t rely on staged focus groups—talk to your most passionate users and your strongest advocates. Read what people are saying across the World Wide Web (if they’re saying anything about you in the first place).
The Internet is unlike any other kind of media. It isn’t only a way for your company to communicate with consumers, but a way for them to communicate with you. If you remember nothing else from this collection of tips, remember this: The Internet isn’t just a bunch of cables and wires—it’s an interconnected network of people.