I was looking back over previous blog entries and was startled to see the date of our first post, way back in 2000. Was it really that long ago? We launched our first web site in the mid-1990s and our blog followed soon after. How have communications changed in that time?
Changes in communication since 2000
Technology has driven many changes in communication, with the development of social media, greater access to video and many new ways of communicating that we didn’t have back then. We’ve also seen services come and go, like Google+ and Vine, while others have been all the rage for businesses for a year or two before falling out of favour.
At the moment, it seems that social media services are imposing more restrictions on users, meaning that businesses have to work harder to get their messages across. For some years, users were able to automate posts and bombard networks with sales messages. Twitter and Facebook especially are making it harder to do this in an effort to make their networks more social. Whether they’ll succeed in turning back the clock to the pre-automation days remains to be seen.
Currently, many businesses seem to be moving on to Instagram, much as they previously embraced Twitter and Facebook, and it will be interesting to see how individual users respond to this. LinkedIn, which has always been more business focused, seems to attracting more interaction too. Yet nothing stands still and it is impossible to say which will be the most important networks in five years’ time.
Which is your essential network?
Inevitably, you’re going to find that one or two social media networks or online channels work more effectively for your business than others – and they are where you’ll want to focus most of your efforts – but it’s vital not to depend on them.
I used to love Vine as an outlet for my personal videos and thrived on the creativity of creating looping six-second videos. After Vine closed, I haven’t really found a community which suits me so well, even though I am now more active on Instagram.
The same could happen to any service you come to depend on for your business. That network or channel could suddenly change its rules without warning to disadvantage you, perhaps even preventing you from posting, or even disappear along with all your content, as Google+ did. Developing your own web site, blog and offline materials is important so that, whatever happens to your preferred social media networks or other services, you control and maintain your own presence at all times and don’t lose access to your audience.
Your own network – whether on or offline – is essential to you and must be resilient enough to withstand the loss of any third party channel.
Attracting attention takes effort
Attracting attention always takes effort. That’s why shortcuts promising to save time and energy often appeal to us. The big digital players – social media networks and search engines – are also aware of this and have become more vigilant to stop users bending the rules for an easier life and faster results. Much of the convenience provided by automatic posting is disappearing as networks crack down on spam, fake followers and similar practices. Remember how some web sites used to display white text on a white background to fool search engines? Not any more. Neither can anyone cram web pages with keywords out of context. Quality of content has become more important again and that’s good, although it presents the challenge of creating original, interesting content all the time.
I’ve been creating digital communications since 1985 and consider online tools valuable, yet in 2019 I’ve just launched a print magazine. The reason is that the medium does not matter: it’s the content that’s important. Content that attracts attention is essential, whatever the medium.
It also means that quick results can be more difficult to achieve. You have to be in it for the long haul, publishing original blogs and social media posts, taking photos and video, and mixing these with offline communications, from newsletters, adverts and brochures to live communication including phone calls, face-to-face meetings and events. Depending on the nature of your business, some of these will be more effective than others.
Attracting future customers
Almost two decades since our first post, we now have the most remarkable selection of communications tools at our disposal. Applied with thought and creativity, there is no limit to what we can achieve through communication – when we commit appropriate time, effort and resources – to attract customers’ attention.
• Robert Zarywacz is a partner in Zarywacz, editor of Business Action magazine and co-organiser of BBxpo exhibition.