I'm often asked by small business owners (and folks in larger businesses, too) how they can keep up with all the new things going on in social media, search, and everything else on the Internet. It's hard for them to hear sometimes, but I keep trying to tell them that is the wrong question. What they need to do instead is to simply decide what to ignore.
That's scary for many of us, because none of us wants to miss the next big thing. Or even the next fairly sizable thing that will boost revenue a little bit because this has been a really bad month.
That's understandable. It's human nature. But it's dumb.
Image by Saynine via Flickr
You don't have an infinite amount of time to spend, so you can't have as your agenda the limitless task of keeping up with everything on the Internet. For some of us, the Internet is so overwhelming that we do the exact opposite and decide that we will keep up with none of it. This, as a moment's reflection will tell you, is equally dumb.
So, instead of a black-and-white approach of sitting on the digital sidelines or keeping up with absolutely everything, how can you decide what to ignore?
It's not that difficult if you take the same approach to the Internet that you take with the rest of your business. After all, you don't implement every hare-brained scheme that someone suggests to you in any other part of your business, so why do you lack confidence when it comes to saying "no" about the Internet?
What I see in the business owners that I work with is a belief that this Internet stuff is somehow beyond them. That it is too technical. That when it works, it is a mystery and when it doesn't work, it's an even bigger mystery. It doesn't have to be that way.
You don't literally need to understand all the technology behind Internet marketing, any more than you need to know how they print and distribute phone books to place a Yellow Pages ad. What you do need to know is what your business goals are.
So, don't use Twitter because it is new. Use Twitter because you think it is a great way to interact with potential customers to see what they are thinking. Don't use message boards because your competitor is doing it. Use them because it alerts you to problems in your industry that you'd like to get a jump on. Don't do search marketing because you read that it is hot. Use it because you want to drive more leads to your offline sales team.
The folks with the least confidence about deciding what things to ignore are the ones whose business goals for Internet marketing are the sketchiest. They have a Web site because everyone else does. They did banner ads because they are cheaper than print. They are on Facebook because their teenager said they should be.
If you start by focusing on what you want your Web site to do for your business and you focus everything on helping improve the results of that initial goal, then you can try things and see how they work. Or you can take a look at something and say, "I can't see how that helps me towards my goals."
Now, if you ignore things, is it possible that they will in fact turn out to be critically important, and you'll realize that you made a mistake. Yes and yes. But the only bigger mistakes are to ignore everything because you are overwhelmed, or try to do everything hafway and accomplish nothing.
Remember why you are in business. Figure out how the Web makes your business better. Try things that fit into that concept. Keep doing the ones that work. Rinse and repeat.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, Web personalization, and Web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.
Mike also founded and writes for the Biznology newsletter and blog, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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