Are you using technology appropriately? Are you implementing technology in your business because it's available, or because it will add value to your customers, employees, community and business? Four posts this week have me thinking it's time for a reminder about the appropriate use of technology.
It seems we hear almost daily about a new Web 2.0 platform. Beyond blogs, we have YouTube, Twitter, podcasts, video blogs, LinkedIn, Second Life, old-fashioned email, and so on. I don't know about you, but sometimes I even feel guilty that I haven't started podcasting, or learned how to twitter, or figured out the latest and greatest tool. And many of us feel the temptation to jump onto all of these, hoping to find our target customers with at least one of them.
What's wrong with that? Plenty.
Your customers might not be there. John Moore notes that we might be wasting our time if we don't go where our customers are. That means spending some time upfront understanding where your potential customers already spend their on-line time and then going there - and maybe only there. If you are looking to reach 45 year old southern males, for example, should you spend time on Second Life or at Nascar races?
You may find yourself distracted from your main goal as you work to understand each new tool and build your presence there. Phil Gerbyshak reminds us to periodically take a step back and check whether what we are doing is moving us toward our goals. In terms of technology, for example, will a Second Life presence bring us the customers we want, or just distract us? I'm starting a coaching business and have been warned not to spend day after day redesigning my website at the expense of making personal connections and actually coaching. Good advice.
A given technology platform may not meet your goals. Easton Ellsworth, for example, points out that sometimes a phone call will serve our needs better than email (especially when we need immediate attention, or need to understand the emotions underlying what folks are saying.) If you are trying to reach commuters, as another example, podcasts or satellite radio might be great technologies, whereas YouTube and blogs would be ineffective.
The technology might get in the way of building a real person-to-person relationship. Take the Blackberry, for example. It's a great way to stay in touch with those distant from you. But what happens in a face-to-face conversation if you are constantly glancing down at the little black box? For the sake of maintaining a distant relationship, you might be hurting a personal relationship. Here it's an issue of "when" to use technology, rather than "if."
The technology might artificially constrain your thinking. Think about how the old static website technology led to stuffy, PR-ese corporate writing, and how blogging technology is freeing up those bonds. Or think about how PowerPoint presentation technology has forced so many of us into boring, bullet-pointed thinking.
If all of that isn't enough, Andrew Keen believes unrestrained use of Web 2.0 tools threatens "...our values, economy, and...innovation and creativity." Wow!
So what to do?
I say start with your customer. Always. Start by understanding whom you want to reach and what value you hope to deliver to them. Then and only then look into the available technologies and sort out which of them are going to help you make contact. Use technology where and when it will accelerate your progress, and avoid it otherwise.