This interweb thingy is geeky by nature. It’s woven together out of strange technologies, inscrutable acronyms, and esoteric practices. For normal (read non-geek) folks, it can feel a bit like a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Add to this the fact that things keep changing at an ever-increasing pace, with new disruptive ideas that continually make others obsolete, and it’s easy to end up with a ratcheting sense that everyone is leaving you behind; and your once-clever marketing communications, well… they’re so five minutes ago.
It’s precisely this state of bewildered insecurity that makes people ripe targets for the sellers of internet snake oil. “Grows hair! Cures rheumatism! Guarantees new customer leads!” These pitches prey on the age-old fear that you might be missing something really fantastic. That fear causes too many folks to spend money on poorly-understood “miracle cures” which they hope will somehow transform their business outlook.
Here’s the problem: New practices and systems are perpetually springing up, and the ones that can get enough traction make their way to the mainstream. As these practices become popular, they also change in response to their users. And while many existing practices remain tried and true, others are still finding their place and keep shifting even as you attempt to make use of them. Unfortunately, for the supporters of some initiatives, their desire to make their particular technology, service or practice king of the hill causes them to preach cataclysmic upheaval in order to shift public sentiment and unseat the existing successes (“BEHOLD! The new cure-all! All else is passe!”). So this, in combination with the tweaky nature of a lot of it, creates an atmosphere that practically guarantees misunderstanding on the part of people such as yourself who are just trying to navigate this maze and find new clients.
When it’s all said and done, it’s important to remember this: You need to understand what your organization’s objectives are and evaluate whether specific tactics are a fit for those objectives. Anything else leads to wasted time, money and effort.
Resist the urge to buy into the myth of how new PixieDust 2.0 will whiten your whites, balance your tires and get rid of that last 10lbs of unwanted belly fat. As many stories as you read about how wonderfully it worked for everyone else, there’s no avoiding the fact that you need to know if it’s a fit for your situation. Not every tactic is appropriate for every situation. Ask the questions: What does this really do? How does it provide benefit?
Case in point: There are rapscallions out there who will sell you a bill of goods on SEO. They know you’ve heard about it, and they know that you will probably respond to promises of top rankings. Hey, everyone wants top rankings, right? The problem is, they neglect to tell you about the importance of selecting relevant search terms that your prospects will actually be searching for. So they sell you top rankings on terms that might look good at a glance, but end up being moot. You think Woohoo! I AM #1 ON GOOGLE! But it’s for keywords that nobody does searches on.
Social media is another area where there is a lot of snake oil being sold. It’s an exciting area that’s ripe with opportunities, but you have to know what will be a fit for your objectives. What are you looking to get from it? Just mashing in some Facebook with a side of Twitter isn’t going to cure your ills. In fact, it may create new headaches as you struggle to maintain something that isn’t a good fit, and then leave little more than a trail of broken attempts when you eventually let it go fallow.
The net is a big world that just gets bigger by the minute. Take a breath, and accept that fact. Now make your decisions in the light of reasoned inquiry, based on information from a trustworthy source. Determine your objectives. Sort out how you would like to go after those. Factor in some pure experimentation based on your level of risk tolerance (hey, if you are OK with trying something that may flop, give it a shot). But remember that you need to make your decisions based on a rational determination of what you think will move you forward. Don’t run in circles chasing will-o-the-wisps because you’re afraid the NEXT BIG THING is going to pass you by. If it’s really that big, it’ll still be around later when you decide you’d like to give it a go.
Act from a centered place of inner clarity. You can’t know everything about what’s happening on the internet. If you could, you’d find half of it was obsolete by the time you finished sorting it out. Know what your organization is about, and pursue your goals. If you find yourself feeling that “I don’t really understand how this will help, but I’m afraid I’m going to miss out” feeling, step back and ask yourself if you’re buying some snake oil.