Digital DivideIt seems that almost every day some new online service is launched and you feel duty bound to investigate and consider whether your business should use it. The latest craze is Pinterest and who knows what the next one will be. An effective online marketing system now includes a core website, several mini-sites, link building campaigns and offline PR to drive people to your sites . Then there is search engine optimisation, pay per click as well as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. And that’s all before you even consider QR codes, an iPhone App and one for the Android system was well…!

The amount of digital “stuff” that you have to do these days is quote mind-boggling. However, it could be a problem. The more your web business depends upon the latest digital services and applications, the more you remove yourself from your customer base. Many customers are well “behind the curve” technologically speaking. Even in the business to business sector there are many companies who have yet to go beyond a humble PC. Their staff do not have the time to follow you on Twitter and the thought of running their business on a smartphone sounds like science fiction to them. If you “over digitalise” your business, you create a divide between your technologically led business and your potential customers.

The concept of the digital divide has been with us for many years. The “haves” and the “have nots” abound whichever way you look at the Internet. For instance, there are 2bn people who currently use the Internet, but the bulk of the people in the world do not even have the opportunity to go online because where they live has no potential for connection. And even if it did, they couldn’t afford the costs. In a thriving industrialised nation you might think that there is less of a divide; but it is not so. Maps of “digital expertise” for the UK, for instance, show that almost all of it is concentrated in London and the surrounding areas. People in the far flung corners of Britain tend to have much less knowledge and experience of the Internet – meaning that if you use the latest online gizmos for the UK, much of the population won’t know what they are.

In the business world there is also a divide. Many banks, for instance, either have no Internet access or very limited availability for their staff. That means your local bank manager cannot easily keep up-to-date with your business in the same way your other suppliers are able to do. And for security reasons, they can’t even follow your activities on LinkedIn or Twitter. So if you concentrate your relationship building efforts to online services, you could soon find your bank manager is out of touch with your business – and that will not be helpful.

It is an example of the sometimes hidden digital divides which affect business. Now there is new information from Flinders University which suggests that digital divides of all kinds are likely to increase over the coming years, not reduce. The more you make your online business digital, the more likely it is that you squeeze some people out. Not everyone who you can do business with is as digital as you…!

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