What is Online?

20 January 2015 | by flint

What is Online?

It’s a burning question that rolls its way through my brain each and every morning and throughout most of the day. Wondering “What is online?” has kept me up at night with rambling murmurings of great ideas and terrible potential brand tragedies. From a business perspective the real burning question is “What is the value of online for me?” Many businesses just cannot come to grips with the online world and often end up holding the hot side of the digital stick while somewhere in the distance users are burning their brand to the ground on social media. Most of this comes down to a few main factors.

 

The first factor is understanding what “online” is.

 

For many businesses “online’ is just a website, Facebook page and a Twitter account. It is treated with as much reckless abandon as Miley Cyrus on wrecking balls. In these cases there is usually some poor intern who had nothing better to do and so was put in charge of the brand’s online presence. #HugeFail once again as users begin to interact about and around the brand and the best response they can get is, “Thank you for your comment. We will respond in 24 to 48 hours.”

 

Online is not simply the sum total of the platforms on which your brand exists. Did you ever stop to ask yourself why you should be online? Where should you be? Are your customers online? There is a good chance that your competitor who is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is costing themselves money and not making a cent (or any metric that measures value, whether tangible or intangible). So first – Online is not ticking a box but having a damn good reason to be there.

 

Second – businesses treat digital as an add-on to the overall business strategy

 

And without considering the most important and powerful aspect of the online environment: the ability to give and receive value from users. This is not the same as the traditional buyer-seller relationship. A user does not need to have purchased something from a brand to receive value and a brand does not need to give free stuff to users to get them to promote the brand. Brands can generate value for users in the form of content production; providing vertical solutions and creating a community space where people with similar interests can interact and be engaged.

 

Conversely, these users who receive value can communicate with their circle of influence and grow brand awareness, love, ambassadorship and advocacy. So, without buying or selling, value is created, given and received. #Booyah! So whatever you do, make sure you are creating value for your audience and still receiving value on your end.

 

Third – I mentioned reckless abandon earlier.

 

I would like to expand on that by including a question-answer scenario I have had with clients:

 

Question: “So what is the business objective you want to achieve from being online?”
Answer: “We want likes on Facebook and lots of traffic to our site.”

 

Aha…That’s cool but I did not hear what objective that would cover. My least favourite aspect of brands going online is their brash, reckless abandon and their “this is easy and we don’t need to plan an approach to digital” attitude. Just like any other business activity, what you do online must support a business objective otherwise what are you really doing anything for? Online needs to be strategically integrated into the business/marketing strategy.

 

The bottom line here is “Think before you do!”

 

But that is from a business perspective. Myself, I am still mulling it over in my head. There are so many aspects and components to digital that it can be many things. Perhaps the reality is that online is not one thing but many things, maybe online is even everything – a conglomerate of all human knowledge, communication and interaction that can be tapped into for whatever need a person or brand may have. When (if) I figure it out I’ll let you know. In the mean time keep exploring and learning.

 

Final Thought to Consider:

As of 2013 90% of data ever created was produced in the previous two years. This is expected to double every two years.

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