The biggest cost to you and your business of the Web could be time, or rather WASTED TIME.
This can especially be the case for owners/managers of SMEs or senior executives of large companies. It is very easy to spend hours or even days surfing the web on search engines such as Google or on social networking such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or ipatter, looking for “ideas” on how it can help your business.
Well this is the wrong way around! There are too many ideas; too many ways to get lost and too many ways to waste your valuable time.
This was highlighted to me when at a recent face to face networking event when I was having a chat with a senior partner at a professional services company. I asked him if his organisation used social networking such as Twitter. He said, quite forthrightly, they did not, and he did not think it could help his business.
I was a bit amazed by how sure he was, so I simply asked why. What he said next highlighted why it is important to know what your business wants or needs before spending time (or money) on a “serious” investigation of what the Web can give. Our chat went something like:
“Some of my (junior) colleagues have continually told me that we should use Twitter. They were adamant we should, but could not tell me why…other than that other similar firms were actively using it.”
“So what did you do?” I asked, and here came the bombshell:
“I decided to investigate this myself, so no more of the firm’s time was wasted. I spent time looking at Twitter myself”
I asked, “How long did you do this?” expecting an hour or half day at most.
“I spent nearly 2 weeks fairly solidly on Twitter, but I found nothing.”
Shocked at a calculation in my head of the amount of billing time this had used, I asked “And what were you looking for?”
To which he replied, “Well simple, for ideas on how Twitter could help my firm.”
“And did you find any?”
“No, to be quite honest there was too much there. It was far too busy. It is certainly not for a firm of my size. It confirmed my suspicion that they (the juniors) just wanted to use it for fun and to waste time.”
This last point can be a valid concern, but I did not think so in this case.
I also did not want to highlight the cost of this exercise. If he had not already done this and was having sleepless nights as a result, I did not want to start them.
Instead, having a fair understanding of how his profession worked, I said, “I know, to us old timers it can be a bit like the old ticker tapes from the Stock Market.” I then enquired, “Isn’t it true your profession is now trying to highlight how you are a source of important information to your existing and potential clients.”
“Yes” he answered.
“A lot of the time you are passing this information on from the government or your professional body. When you do this is do they believe they are getting the information from your firm or your professional body” I asked.
“From us. It is part of our service to them.” He replied.
“And I believe you already have RSS feeds from government departments and your professional body continually up dating on your website?”
“Well here is a simple and cheap way to use Twitter. Redirect these RSS feeds to your Twitter account. This will take minutes, maybe a couple of hours, not days and you are immediately extending your services to existing and potential clients away from your office, website or publications.”
I then added, “If I saw a message from your firm, which was important to my business, to me the service had come from you, and therefore may result in business for you now or in the future.”
On this point the mood of the chat changed from a bit serious back to, well, friendly…still on the same topic. When we finished a couple of minutes later, he had a few more ideas on how, not just Twitter, but the Web as a whole could help his firm. Additionally on how to do the initial investigations at a lower “cost”, even if this involved outsourcing.
When you start reviewing how you are using, or going to use, the web you need to have some idea of what you want. This does not initially have to be precise. It needs to be direction, such as extending the services you provide as related above.
You need to limit your expense (time or money) on these investigations. If you are not getting any results then review the direction you are looking.
Also never believe you have to do it “alone”. You are unlikely to be the first in your sector using the web. Look at how other organisations are and ask yourself is it working, can your business do or improve it. I am not saying you cannot find unique, successful ways of using the web in your business type or, maybe, a needle in a haystack.
You just need to learn and review first. Then find a needle in a different haystack.
And if you are having trouble finding your direction, do not be afraid to ask. Informal chats like the one above do not cost anything, but could save you a lot.