Terrorists clearly use the Internet to set up their atrocities. No doubt the latest critical threat alert in the UK has been informed by research conducted by the security services online. They will have found evidence of terrorist activity in forums, emails and in increased readership of sites that detail how to make bombs. Wherever they go online, terrorists leave their footprints behind.
Thankfully, security experts are able to follow these footprints, rather like ancient hunter-gatherers could track animals across the countryside, following tiny spots of evidence. For them it was just getting lunch, for our society tracking terrorists across the Internet is a matter of life and death. However, it is getting harder.
The Internet is growing exponentially; in fact the graph of expansion is almost vertical. As the Internet gets bigger, as more people come online and leave tracks behind them, so the path of the terrorist online gets harder to find. But what’s true for the terrorist is also true for you.
If you ran your business online, say, five years ago, you were reasonably easy to find. Your Internet footprint was a clear impression that even the most amateur tracker could find. Your web site had higher visibility and there was less “noise” around on your topic, making it much easier for people to find you.
Now, that’s all changed. Get your web site to number one on the search engines this week and before the weekend someone comes along and steals it from you. Create a blog on your topic and within hours so have thousands of others. Write an article about one aspect of your business and within the next five days so will have dozens of your competitors. Your business is getting harder and harder to find amongst the dramatic increase in noise. And it is going to get worse.
At the moment only around 9% of people in Europe are actively contributing to the Internet. Even with such a low participation rate your online presence is fading. In the next year or two that is going to get even worse. More and more people are going to be adding more and more things to the Internet. We are only at the beginning right now; you ain’t seen nothing yet.
What that means is you and your business are going to get harder and harder and harder to find. Unfortunately, so will the terrorists. They are happy about it, you shouldn’t be. Your Internet footprint is going to be washed away as the tide of new content comes in. There is only one way out of this – a bigger and deeper footprint. For your business that means adding even more content, in more varied formats, in more places. It means having people on the shore of the Internet (i.e “offline”) pointing to your footprint saying “hey look at that”; in other words, loads and loads of offline marketing of your Internet presence. It also means being different; on the beach a fading human footprint won’t get noticed amongst the dozens of others in the sand. But a non-human print would be seen; so online you can no longer do what everyone else is doing.
The future of the Internet is a massive, unbelievably huge, infinite world of information. You won’t get noticed unless you have a massive and unusual Internet footprint.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+