Become A Beacon On The Digital Landscape


A beacon is an intentionally conspicuous device designed to focus attention on a specific location.

Visualize what image the word beacon conjures in your mind:  perhaps a lighthouse casting light onto an otherwise dark horizon, or a signal fire atop a hill illuminating the night sky.  In the physical world, a beacon is used to draw attention, act as a guide, or call to action.  Civilizations have long used them to rally citizens together, protect ships from coastlines, and act as signal points.

But the concept of a beacon is not limited to purely physical signaling points.  There are beacons on the web – they are people, companies, networks, blogs, anything that can direct attention.

You must become a beacon or you are essentially at the whim of others who point attention at their own discretion, perhaps shining the light on you for fleeting moments…if you’re lucky.  Far better to become an arbiter of attention in your industry or niche rather than forfeit this to others.

The lighthouse example strikes me as the type of beacon most analogous to the web.  A lighthouse works by passing light through a system of lenses, focusing and directing the signal, as illustrated in the image below:


(source : Helen Beaglehole. ‘Lighthouses’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

This is similar to how beacons function online.  The only difference is constructing an amplification lens to spread your messages on the web is less of an exact science than the manufacturing of a lighthouse lens – it is a far more fluid process that must be ongoing.  This is because the amplification lens is made up of your network, search engines and social areas of the web – things that are in a constant state of flux.

The fastest way to amp up the worth of your own network is to bring smaller networks together with it so they can act as one larger network and gain the total n2 value.
–Kevin Kelly

A strategic, precise approach (the directed lens) is more effective than a diffusive presence.  Imagine a coastline with thousands of lighthouses all casting diffused light in all directions – yet one is pouring focused light in only one direction.  To all ships traveling down that path, it would be obvious where to go.  Without specific, directed amplification, the light cast from a lighthouse is useless.  Same with your messages.  This speaks to the real value of your network and is why bigger is not better, a razor sharp approach is far more effective at accomplishing specific goals.

If damaged, light amplification lenses in lighthouses are almost impossible to repair, and upkeep is time-intensive.  This is true on the web as well, speaking to the importance of maintaining a strong digital reputation.

The source of light (your communications) matters too.  The amplification lens you create is only going to work with certain messages.  As the architect of your network, you will find your formula and direct it through the lens each time for maximum impact.

Only room for so many beacons

User attention does not scale, yet the number of those attempting to become beacons of information and ideas is going up.  But not everyone can become a beacon due to the very nature of what defines one – that it must be glaringly noticeable.  Following the lighthouse analogy, what this means is:

  • You must construct the most directed, effective amplification lens possible
  • Always feed the right content through the lens
  • Remember, the internet is closer to an organic network than anything else, so the lens must undergo a fluid, continuous development process
  • An ultra-high signal to noise ratio must be maintained – do not attempt amplification of irrelevant messages
  • Protect the lens at all costs, it is extremely difficult to regain if lost
  • Strengthen/sharpen the lens regularly

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