Are you actually reducing your potential for online business?

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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Graham Jones
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+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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Graham Jones

5 thoughts on “Are you actually reducing your potential for online business?

  1. Hi Graham

    Most digital expertise is in London? Think you should quantify that statement Graham with some evidence. Sure there are more people in London but that does not mean that per capita they are any more ‘digitally advanced ‘ than anywhere else. Do you have any research to substantiate that?
    “Almost all of it is concentrated in London” – utter rubbish
    Regards

    Nigel

    • Thanks for your comment Nigel. I’m not sure I agree my statement is “utter rubbish”. The point I was making was taken from research published in the Journal of Urban Economics which looked at the distribution of what they called “e-expertise” in Britain. The study found that London has 10 times the level of “e-experts” than elsewhere in the UK. The study was focusing on “technical literacy” – London has higher levels of this than the rest of Britain, the research showed.

      • Hi Graham

        Its a very big statement to make and one you shouldn’t at all without that reference. I still question where they get that from and whether it is any way near true. Whether this refers to the general population or people working within technology companies.

        I cannot see how the level of e literacy in the genreal population should be any higher in the South than say Stockton on Tees or Manchester. If you are talking about workers in the industry then that may well be different.
        Regards
        Nigel

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