Slow Internet

slow-internetIf you’ve spent much time around internet marketing types you’re probably familiar with the frenzied atmosphere that can envelope the room as they cycle through all the things you absolutely must be doing to have any hope at all of surviving in today’s cut-throat online world … website, responsive design, SEO, graphic design, logo design, apps, blogs, copywriting, AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn … the list goes on and on and of course all work involved is billable to the client.

Bigger, faster, newer, more, more and more! It’s all a part of the infinite exponential growth mindset of mainstream contemporary business culture.  If you’re not selling much more than hot air anyway, maybe you really do need to get on board the bullshit bandwagon that much contemporary internet marketing actually is. If you sell an inferior product at a higher price with poor after sales support, maybe you really do need a massive internet marketing campaign to gloss over those negatives.

But otherwise, don’t buy the hype … there is another way. I call it Slow Internet, using the fastest bandwidth available.

Slow Internet borrows inspiration from the Slow Food movement and is about stepping back, taking a look at the broader context, and getting some perspective on the relationship between people and the internet.  It is about adopting a grounded, circumspect and common sense approach to internet marketing where only three things really matter … good design, quality content and targeted social media.

So, assuming your business sells real products and services and not just hot air …

Good design

This one is pretty simple. A website needs to look good and function well, and it needs to do so on any device – smartphone, tablet or laptop.

A website also needs to be found in search engines. But beyond good initial website design considerations don’t waste your time and money on dodgy search engine optimisation (SEO) voodoo. SEO is fickle, rules can change overnight ruining months of expensive work, and if done badly enough it can demote rather than promote your site. You’re much better off spending time and money creating quality content and managing relationships in social media.

Do you need native smartphone apps (one each for Android, iPhone and Windows phones) as well as a website? Maybe but probably not. A good website looks and functions great on a smartphone. Many people these days are wary of cluttering up their phones with pointless apps that provide no added value beyond what a simple web page can do.

Quality content

This one is even simpler. Website content needs to be fresh, unique, honest and genuinely useful. If you create content that people actually want to read, view, recommend, share and link to … then your SEO needs are automatically sorted!

Targeted social media

Social media has largely replaced traditional website tasks such as communicating news, updates, offers and event notifications. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are mostly free, easy to use, well integrated with other on-line platforms, and potentially closer to the intended audience. But we should remember that using social media for marketing purposes is different to using it for personal ends.

Remember junk mail in your letter box? Spam email? Television advertising? They’re still around, but nowadays we have social media for all that, and it can quickly become a fire hose of pointless irrelevant noise. Depending on where you stand, you’ll either be getting hosed or trying to keep the hose full. The point here is that to be meaningful anything you do in social media needs to be targeted, focused and measured.

For most businesses and community organisations only three social media platforms are currently worth serious consideration: Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. If you have to pick just one, choose Twitter.

Facebook certainly has the audience, but business Facebook pages can be disappointing. The pages all look identical and most content is imported from elsewhere, usually a website or blog. Pages compete for attention with every other business’s Facebook page, with paying advertisers, and with Facebook itself. Which leaves only one option for gaining traction: start paying. The experience of many businesses is that once they start paying for traction, they do indeed start to get page likes … but too often from zombie user profiles created on an industrial scale in India, Bangladesh, the Phillipines and elsewhere.

Well managed Facebook pages and accounts can work in some niches where real underlying social networks already exist. But static, unappealing Facebook pages with stale second-hand content hardly provide followers with a compelling experience.

Google Plus is probably a technically superior social platform, but good luck persuading anyone to join you there. Apart from a few niches it has never gained enough traction to make it worth much effort. Its user interface is complex and confusing and it is definitely not the place to tap into the zeitgeist or build a following. Hence it is unsurprising that rumours persist about Google Plus’s eventual demise.

Other platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are good at what they do, but how many people actually follow them? They’re worth keeping an eye on but remain niches which may or may not suit your audience. The odds are they will be a waste of your time and resources.

Blogging remains popular and quality content can attract significant traffic. But quality blogs require a great deal of maintenance and content creation and are therefore a huge drain on resources. In the case of the most successful blogs, the blog itself is the business. And as for vlogging on Youtube … everything I just said but multiply the work by a factor of 10.

Twitter is the standout social media platform in terms of time efficiency, reach, engagement and transparency. I’m not being paid to say this. The 140 character limit enforces brevity, but you can also share links, images and even videos. At last count there were around half a billion Twitter users. Twitter makes it easy to engage with followers, ask and answer questions, join conversations. The whole public/private thing is much simpler with Twitter and almost everything is transparently public.

As a business tool, Twitter is not just about publishing content. Twitter also makes it easy to follow the bleeding edge of an industry by assembling a targeted feed of breaking news, research, market insight, public opinion and everything else you could possibly want to know about that industry. And of course others do exactly the same with your Twitter feed.

If things are busy and you don’t have time to Tweet, Retweet! This is perfectly acceptable and helps you build an honest and transparent profile. What you choose to retweet helps others to understand you and your organisation.

Final words

Remember, life is finite and so is the number of hours in a day. None of these social media platforms are completely worthless, but how much of your life do you want to spend doing this stuff? Seriously, if you’ve got family, friends, a partner and a life then you need to choose one or two platforms and focus on them alone.

Yes, you could automatically push canned content across dozens of social media platforms simultaneously, thereby gifting even more pointless irrelevant noise to the world. But you can’t leave those social media accounts on auto pilot. Personal interactions that arise as people comment on and ask questions about your content need to be tracked and followed up. Again, do one or two platforms properly.

Above all, don’t lose sight of real people living in the real world. If you sell a real product or service that is as good as it can be and good value for money, it will sell itself, offline or on-line. Honesty, sincerity, clarity … they all trump technology every time.