Beware of shiny objects.

facebook shiny object

At some time or another, shiny objects come to exist within businesses. These objects come in various forms, but they are a major time suck in the organization, producing little or no return on investment.

Many organizations are focusing massive investment and resources into to the great social media enigma. We all believe that eventually this wonderful set of social spaces will generate revenue for our businesses, but that day has yet to arrive.

If there is more focus on your Facebook page than your home page, then you have a problem. The shiny object has officially hypnotized you, and you’re heading down the wrong, unprofitable path.

I, too, believe that social media are important, but the focus you give to these channels needs to be consistent with the revenue they drive for your business today. I recently received a solicitation from a social media service, and what it said was something I had to write down. “You need to think about social media as a branding initiative and not something that drives revenue for your business.” Needless to say, this was a short conversation. It is probably not a good idea for a small business to focus on brand over driving revenue.

I believe much of the focus on these social channels today stems from the ease of understanding. Social media is simple. You don’t have to keep up to date on the latest panda updates in organic search. You don’t have to worry about match types, negative keywords, quality score and bid rank in PPC. In social media, you simply post and people choose to respond or ignore you. It is brilliant in its simplicity, and it is easy for management of all levels to understand (not implying anything here). It is a far cry from the perceived black box that surrounds search marketing today.

I am not advocating shutting down your Facebook page and hanging up your hat. I am simply asking you to take a look at your website today, along with your current revenue-driving marketing channels. You need to ask yourself a few questions. Is your website perfect? Are your conversions over 2%? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, then by all means focus heavily on social, but if you answered “no,” then you have a lot of work to do. Amazon’s conversion rates are 12 to 18% (a high bar). Work smarter and cast aside the shiny objects until you have time to focus on them.

Don’t talk about SOPA! (Stop Online Piracy Act)

fight sopa!

Believe it or not, I work in a field considered to fall into the “tech” category. Since I was very young, all things resembling the electronic genome fascinated me immensely, which spawned a wonderful relationship with such devices for my entire life. It was natural for me to fall into the profession that I did as a result of this early romance. The only reason I recount this brief history of my psyche is because it is the field that I know and love that has also become the growth engine for our country. It is within this industry that innovation is still happening, and it is why I am so passionate about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).

The idea of a “lawless internet” should not have a dark light cast over it. Long ago in our country, “lawlessness” existed, or at least we lacked as many laws as we have today. It was during this “lawless” time that job creation was in fact part of the American dream. People took what little they had and headed West in hopes of finding something better, and they created cities and businesses with very little “start-up capital”. Innovation often doesn’t occur without constraints.

I would argue that the innovation, invention and revolutionary ideas we have been witness to over the last two decades occurred with constraints pushing them to fruition. Traditional brick-and-mortar business is now wrought with so many laws, constraints and start-up capital requirements that the lion’s share of businesses are doomed before they even have a chance at success As a result of such constraints, college kids and entrepreneurs sought to “green-field” a new type of business – one that resembled what once was the American dream. They were forced to create something in a realm not governed by the same laws and constraints of traditional business. The tech-preneur operated within a different constraint. They had to create a new road for others to follow – to keep the dream alive. The old system had become so difficult to navigate it smothered any chance of success – innovation forced its way free from possible suffocation.

SOPA is not just about privacy or copyright infringement. It is about stopping change – stopping innovation. The music industry and movie/television industry are huge advocates for the passing of such a bill. It is the companies and industries that fail to reinvent themselves that fear the sweeping change the open exchange of knowledge brings. The radio industry fought television. The music industry fought digital. Blockbuster video fought Netflix, Redbox and the idea of streaming video. We need to fight for innovation and the revolutionary change radiating from Silicon Valley outward. I love that the very definition of innovation includes the word revolutionary because this is the absolute reinvention that many of these industries need to create to survive. Change is coming no matter what, and SOPA will only slow it.

The Internet today is free enterprise as it was once dreamed and known, before laws and too much constraint smothered it. You can start an Internet business today for less than $1,000 annually. A traditional brick-and-mortar business will cost you an average of $5,000 per month ($60,000 annually). Is it any wonder why it is the tale of two nations when you compare Silicon Valley to the rest of the US? We have created the old West once again, and we are hiring despite the massive economic downturn. We are one of the few places where the true American dream still exists.

I believe SOPA is the first step of many to halt the ONLY economic growth this country is currently experiencing. Why would you even attempt to hurt one of the only industries currently hiring. If our government was really supportive of job creation, then it might be better off simply replicating the same innovative culture that exists today in tech. Reinvent business and education and reintroduce free enterprise. Private businesses tend to run a bit more efficiently than the government (DMV is a prime example). We need to Be The Change and stop complaining about the government changing it for us. Privacy has been dead for a long time, and I would leave that fight up to the media industry (movie, television, print and music) and continue to focus on creating more jobs, not killing the only ones available. The last thing we want is an Internet run by the DMV.