It’s Not About Technology, It’s About Ideas

After more than 12 years of socializing on the web I have come to a simple conclusion:  it’s not about technology or being able to manipulate tools “better” than anyone else, rather – it’s about ideas.  The technical aspects are totally democratized, and becoming simpler to implement every day.  Internet marketing isn’t directly about technology, rather it’s about ideas that set it on fire.

It’s about ideas that spread, ideas that are sticky, ideas that connect us in meaningful ways – with each other, with businesses, with causes.  Whether that idea is simple or complex technically is not relevant, and in fact some of the most successful examples are ridiculously simple.  With that said – even to be able to come up with simple ideas you have to be fluent in how society connects and communicates and have a comprehension of all the tools available today and tomorrow.

The best communicators stay at the edge of technology and embrace change

Any digital divide that exists today will eventually bridge as everyone catches up and enters the same playing field.  The thing is, by that time a new divide will emerge.  What I’m getting at is that no marketer can thrive long-term without staying at the edge, as fluency in tools is imperative to be able to think in terms of strategy and come up with good ideas.  And, that’s the basic requirement of each and every communications professional.  If you don’t want to stay at the edge, communications is not for you.  There’s no chance of being able to think at a high level if you’re always playing catch-up.

Where we’re at today

We spend so much time talking about tools, trends and tactics – but the reality is everyone can learn these things independently as many in the industry take the time to share their knowledge publicly.  What this means is that the real value has always been and will continue to be strong ideas.  Think about the fact that:

  • Proper on-site SEO is vital for search traffic, but it is creative and/or useful ideas that forge links, connections and authority in the engines.
  • Blogs are incredibly powerful communications tools that are simple to implement, but worthless without great content.
  • Creating web applications as social media PR generators with subtle or direct viral loops can yield massive results, but they don’t get put into motion without the right thinking behind them.
  • Building subscribers is more than enticing people to opt-in, it’s about building that relationship over time and developing trust.
  • Creating profiles on social media platforms takes 5 minutes, really anyone can do this – but again just like blogs, they mean nothing without something interesting behind them and an ROI in mind.
  • AdWords and PPC are easy to implement, but without a creative approach and strategy behind them the results will be mediocre at best.  Like the board game Orthello, Internet advertising takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.
  • You don’t need a social media expert, you need a good marketer (the modern day definition of a marketing professional includes an understanding of all media).  Good marketing always finds a way to spread.  The right ideas replicate themselves in the petri dish of the web.
  • The best examples of social media marketing are platform agnostic.  I’ve seen personally with my own campaigns that users are going to run with them in their platform of choice, and this is a beautiful thing.  People share where they’re going to share, everyone uses the web in a unique way (play into that).

I’m not downplaying the fact that you need to be fluent in manipulating web communications tools, (or that the tools aren’t amazing, because they are) you absolutely do – but the real value here is not just understanding, it is creative application.  Ideas will emerge as the truly valuable asset, as execution itself gets simpler and knowledge becomes widespread.  This is a good thing, as more understanding means less time spent explaining/educating and more time working at a high level.  Also, the value of what we do will just continue to go up as more are educated.

The web shifts at light speed, new divides will inevitably emerge

TechCrunch along with the early adopter crowd have been pontificating about the future of real-time for quite some time, and Erick Schonfeld captures the shift nicely in the first graph of Jump Into The Stream:

Once again, the Internet is shifting before our eyes. Information is increasingly being distributed and presented in real-time streams instead of dedicated Web pages. The shift is palpable, even if it is only in its early stages. Web companies large and small are embracing this stream. It is not just Twitter. It is Facebook and Friendfeed and AOL and Digg and Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop and Techmeme and Tweetmeme and Ustream and Qik and Kyte and blogs and Google Reader. The stream is winding its way throughout the Web and organizing it by nowness.

My point with quoting TC here is that the way society and businesses use the web is always on the move.  Interestingly enough, what’s new may in many cases add value to what came before it, as exemplified by the fact that Twitter just makes blogs more powerful, and many successful blogs spawn message boards (what is new does not necessarily invalidate what came before it). You have to get ahead of the curve to be effective here, come up with successful ideas and know what to apply when and where.  The best way to get there requires more than reading about others doing it, rather you will learn the most by experimenting as part of your natural process and embracing change as it happens, not fighting or fearing it.

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