10 Reasons For The Widening Divide In Digital Influence

While the business digital divide – at least in the marketing and media industries – feels to be closing, there’s another rift less discussed:  a divide between those with digital influence/share of voice and those without.  And it’s a rift that grows wider daily.

Many businesses and individuals who embraced content marketing years ago are seeing strong returns and are far ahead of those starting today.  I started pondering why this is and jotted down the following list:

1.  The web rewards a long term commitment. We’re weary of companies and people not only new to us, but new to a network.  For example, even if a company you know creates a digital channel, they’re still in many ways starting from scratch for creating a digital reputation and interacting through social technologies.  I’ve seen this to be true across channels and networks.  While in the future we will see no difference between a company’s digital and physical presence, (they will merge) today this is not yet so.  Since we’ve not realized this yet, many experience growing pains and may or may not push through them to see real rewards.

2.  More content = more potential entry points, more links. It kills me to see companies again and again misunderstand the web, and miss the benefits of creating archives of digital content by removing or deleting material.  Yet, those companies who comprehend the value of building out their content over time just continue to accumulate more digital influence and steadily gain greater share of voice.  More content = more hooks in the water for search, more potential pages for users to share and helps establish a brand as referential.  It’s not about quantity or quality alone – you need both.

3.  Those who have been at it awhile have refined their digital processes.  This takes time, especially if you/your company are unstructured for it or are technically unsavvy.  Although I would argue at this point you don’t need someone such as a social media expert, you just need a good marketer (all marketers should understand the web by now).  As an aside, how any company can hire marketers/PR pros who are not fluent in digital media is beyond me.

4.  Savvy individuals and companies have already built a tribe. Those with comprehension of what a digital society enables have been building an organic, opt-in subscribers base for years.  Many are reaching tipping points where those subscribers are producing strong ROI for that company or person.  In many ways, a subscriber base/community provides the ultimate marketing advantage over competitors.

5.  Key relationships with other influencers have been formed organically over time by showing a long term commitment.  In addition to a subscriber base which allows for influence at scale; intimate, personal relationships (the non-scalable kind) with others on the leading edge of the digital divide creates mutual growth.

6.  More iterations of campaigns leads to better marketing.  Those who have been engaged in digital marketing for nearly a decade or more have an innate understanding of leveraging the web for end business objectives.  There is no replacement for experience.

7.  Understanding of how pull PR works. While some companies continue to engage in the cat-and-mouse game of media pitching, a few smart marketers and even media organizations are embracing a pull strategy.  You could do both, sure – but so few companies have the faintest idea how to pitch a blogger.  Smart push tactics do work, but they should still feed into a pull strategy.

8.  Attraction of web-literate team members.  Marketing/PR agencies and companies who cling to the past are not going to attract the same talent as those pushing boundaries.  Web-savvy communication professionals want to work with other web-savvy professionals.  It’s really frustrating not to, and with hiring paradoxically harder in a downtown yet no slowdown in demand for talented digital marketers, there is no reason they have to.

9.  Marketers who take a “head in the sand” approach to digital hold companies back. Social media is not new, and if you think it is you’re already devastatingly far behind in digital influence.  Ignore the social web at your own peril – companies who take a wait and see approach have already yielded a lot of ground to agile competitors.  Marketers who treat the web as an experiment thrive.

10.  Others have already grabbed SERPs/domains/social sites. Those on the wrong side of the digital influence rift are facing challenges such as reputation management issues on search engine pages, loss of brand name URLs/profiles and missing the chance at having a community.  Users may have already decided how certain brands should be perceived digitally before that company is able to carve out a reputation for themselves.  This also applies to professionals:  how many of you don’t own your name on key channels, or appear on page one of searches?  It’s a loss of incalculable value not to have these.

This is a (very) short list of items explaining the widening divide in digital influence.  If you’ve got more, add them in the comments, I’m curious to hear.

In a future post I will address how companies, individuals and artists who are new can overcome these issues and embrace strategies to put them on the path of rapid growth.  Be sure and subscribe so you don’t miss it.

image credit: Losevsky Pavel via Shutterstock