Consider for a moment the possibility of your online business becoming invisible. Suppose that search engines did not exist, social media platforms were not a thing and email had never been invented. How would you get people there? Why?
These two ‘simple’ questions are also the scalpels you need to peel back the veneer of your operational processes and reveal what it is that makes your marketing work (or not). Without search your online business could only be found through direct referrals. Without social media you would have to rely on friends and family to help drive word-of-mouth publicity.
You would be locked in by your locality, trapped by how well or badly your local economy is doing, held hostage by your ability (or lack of) to network. Presumably, because everyone else around you would also be doing the same thing, your efforts would be adding to the ‘noise’ of marketing making it harder for you to reach the few customers that would need your service or product.
Without the ability to create a contextual presence through semantic search that surfaces your content to a relevant audience at the right time and without social media’s ability to independently drive your publicity efforts forward and help you build a reputation independently the sum total of your marketing would be summarized by: "I am here. I am good to do business with, because I say so."
You might question, at this point, whether without search and without a social media sphere would having an online presence still make sense? Well, yes, in terms of cost savings. It is always cheaper to maintain an online presence than a bricks and mortar one and even bricks and mortar business have to close for the day at some point. Their existing customers who know about them, would benefit from having access to information and products or services outside official shop hours.
Advertising Would Still Be There
Of course, without search and social media the only way of driving brand value would be through advertising. And that would get more and more expensive, intrusive and flashy. Consider for a moment that advertising is essentially a message that says “I am great!” broadcast by people whom you have paid to say so.
Yes, it has about that much value too, which is why social media has been so disruptive to it. Lacking a social media sphere to counteract it the online audience would only see advertising on those portals or sites that were being paid to display it and the only way of determining which brand was more ‘serious’ would be through their perception of spending power.
The brand that spent the most money would, within that context, be the one that was obviously working the hardest to capture attention from its potential customers. You’d need deep pockets just to stay alive never mind to successfully compete and size would determine might (and right).
Search, Marketing and Advertising
Thankfully search engines do exist. Social media is expanding and developing. Online advertising (as well as its offline sibling) is undergoing a transformation predicated on delivering differentiation. The transition here is from simply shouting louder to whispering truer.
In SEO Help I detailed how search makes your brand:
- Location independent
- Value predicated
- Context sensitive
It can also transform a small business into a powerhouse by linking what you do with an audience that is looking for it.
Social media helps drive:
- Brand values
- Audience reach
Search and social media together help create a shared space where a wider conversation can take place in various formats. More than that though they help create confidence in your business by ascertaining the quality of what you do in a more human, credible way.
Now that is a real difference. A business that can drive that conversation is a business that is constantly winning customers.