I spend a lot of time these days reading and thinking about how the way we live our lives online is changing. This is both because I’m fascinated with where we’re headed, and because it’s a really important subject for my students and my clients.
I was looking for an image of a crystal ball to include in this post when I came across this photo. Aside from bringing back memories of third grade, it really is a much better visual demonstration of how I see the future unfolding.
That is to say, I don’t think it’s a clear path with an end result we can see in the crystal ball, but rather a this-step-depends-on-what-happened-before kind of path, just like with the cootie-catcher in the photo. (Hey, that’s what it’s called; I can’t help it!)
The Future Looks Promising
There are so many really interesting developments happening, and the pace of change seems to be really accelerating.
I’ll be writing about some of the new technology and changes in online behavior on this blog, so be sure to check back often. (Or you could do the really smart thing and sign up for the RSS feed.)
For now, though, I wanted to talk about why I’m worried…
I’m Worried for You, SMBs
I’ve had the opportunity to talk (and work) with many small and medium sized business owners over the years. Many of these folks are in the unenviable position of working so hard on their businesses that they have little – or no – time left to devote to learning the intricacies of Internet marketing.
Some have a weak website; some have no online presence at all. Some have heard from the ‘gurus’ that they MUST be on Twitter, or that they MUST have a Facebook page. Some have been ripped off by less than scrupulous Internet marketers.
The Internet was supposed to ‘level the playing field,’ making it possible for small businesses to compete with their much larger counterparts. But, for a variety of reasons, that’s just not happening in the real world. SMBs are struggling to keep pace with the ever-expanding array of opportunities available to them online, they lack the deep pockets of their competitors who can spend more on everything from website design to social media, and even the search engines favor larger, more established brands in the search results.
And that’s where we are NOW. Imagine how far behind most SMBs will be if when some of the predictions for the future happen.
Now Is NOT the Time to Bury Your Head in the Sand
I understand how overwhelming all this Internet marketing stuff can be. There’s so much to learn, and so much changing all the time, it can be tempting to just bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away.
But it won’t.
And this is why I think there’s a bright future in store for Internet marketing consultants who are willing to work with small businesses. A SMB who doesn’t know how to leverage social media now is going to really need help when the big picture becomes even more complex.
Words of Advice
SMBs – pull your head out of (ahem) the sand and start developing a plan for the future. If you don’t have a considerable amount of time to spend learning how you can capitalize on the Internet, hire someone who can help. (And I don’t mean hiring your niece to set up a Twitter account.)
I realize that sounds self-serving. I am, after all, an Internet marketing consultant for small businesses. But I firmly believe that virtually ALL businesses need to have an online presence at this point, and I don’t think you have much time to waste.
(This is in contrast to an article I wrote just a few years ago for Insight Magazine. At that time, I said that some businesses probably didn’t NEED a website. Now, however, I can think of very few businesses that wouldn’t benefit from having some presence online.)
Students of Internet marketing – Consider a path that focuses on helping small businesses. The opportunities there will be great. And, the rewards are not only financial, but it’s also much easier to see how your work really benefits someone.