Business in 21st century: be online or be visible?

The Internet has significantly changed the relationship between businesses and consumers. What are the keys to manage a successful online presence and not die trying? 

The term “digital economy” has an irresistible appeal today. Entrepreneurs, marketing analysts and business technology fans constantly repeat it with mixture of enthusiasm and fanaticism. However, it is essential to emphasize that digital economy is not a mere sum of business and high technology; it implies a real paradigm shift. An essential part of these changes directly affects the visibility of brands and companies who – in the midst of the incessant flow of information and knowledge – are struggling not to sink into an ocean of changing data. 

In the online world, the battle for hearts and minds of the “hyper-informed” consumers in 21st century has a number of unwritten rules, which is important to note. In other words, nobody denies the need to be “visible” on the web. The challenge is how to translate this visibility into results. 

How-to’s of being 

An average Internet user constantly faces data and stimuli of all kinds: from pop-up adverts to entertainment contents shared between contacts. If this were not enough, the paradigm shift alluded to above implies that a consumer today is a potential producer of his or her own content: the Internet and social networks have not only made this possible, but also fun. 

In this context, the question is simple: what do businesses do to generate and maintain a fluid and efficient relationship with their consumers? The answer is less simple, but there are at least four starting points that every entrepreneur should know. 

  • In each and every one: corporate web strategies are no longer limited to having an “official website” only. It is necessary to empower the brand message by every digital channel available: blogs, social networks, advertisement (varying from Google AdWords to the more recent tools such as trending topics sponsored by Twitter), positioning in search engines, etc. 
  • Being “in the great conversation”: placing a brand in social networks should not only say, “Here I am”. Even some marketing experts note that this strategy can be counterproductive. In “real life”, do not people who always talk about themselves appear somewhat boring? Well, in the virtual life, consumer gives more value to those brands that have a more interesting message than a constant “retweet” of their promotions. 
  • Consistency and adaptation: it can be everywhere and, at the same time, nowhere. In terms of effective web communication, this phrase refers to a common mistake: producing the same content and its identical replication in all kind of websites. Actually, the message can be the same, but you have to respect the characteristics of each tool. Even the two most popular social networks –Facebook y Twitter– have completely different features and handle their users quite differently. 
  • What people say about us: nowadays, companies cannot ignore what others say about them. Since the Internet en-masse was motorized by social networks, hundreds of millions web users have posted what they think about products and services they use or otherwise would use. The new forms of socialization make comments – both “likes” and “retweets” – extremely viralizing. From this viewpoint, a successful online presence means interpreting consumers’ assessment to ratify or rectify their marketing strategies.

From “online” to visible

The four items described here are just a guide to understanding how the digital economy is much more than a technology. In fact, executives in this century must understand that the change is primarily conceptual. The speed of information and the new role of consumers are variables we cannot ignore. To the opposite, we will miss a subtle but vital difference between being online and being effectively visible for millions of consumers.