It's easy to get caught up in using the latest and greatest thing online exactly because it's new and exciting. It's also a mistake. I'm not saying you shouldn't build a website or use online advertising or social media; I'm just saying that if you do it, you should be doing it for the right reasons.
Mike Moran pointed this out a couple of years ago, and it's every bit as true and important today as it was then. There are two problems with jumping onto every online trend. First, if you start doing something just because it's “new,” you're not thinking carefully about how it fits into what you're trying to accomplish with your business. If you're not thinking about that, you're not going to get the most out of whatever the New Shiny can offer you.
The second problem with leaping onto every new trend is that you will never be able to keep up. I covered the Internet before the first bubble; I was around when it burst. I was also around for Web 2.0. It's hard to tell when something will catch on until well after the fact – and sometimes you can't tell even then. Who would have guessed, for example, that MySpace is not only hanging on, but its users are, on average, younger than Facebook and Twitter users?
Deciding to get involved in every new online trend is wrong, but so is deciding to ignore all of it. Do that and you're doing potential customers an injustice. The truth is, there are a great many reasons to get involved in some online trends, but they need to be the right ones for you and your business. You determine the right reasons by looking at your business and clearly defining your goals, and then looking at how the particular new thing you might like to use can help further those goals.
As Moran explains it, “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.”
You can't do this unless you've sat down and clarified your business goals. If you know exactly what you want to accomplish with your online business, you can work out what you need to do to get there. Then you can look at what getting involved on Facebook or Twitter or running a blog lets you do, for example, and decide how (or whether) this new capability will contribute to achieving your business goals. And if it doesn't actually help you achieve those goals, you might consider sitting out that particular dance. Good luck!
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