Monday, December 13, 2010

How the Social Web Has Changed Internet Marketing

Internet marketing has changed - in a BIG way - in the last few years. Many people don't know how to take advantage of this change, and most don't even know what has changed. So let's look at what's changed and what it means for you.

In the early days of the Web, when the Internet first peeked out of academic institutions and crept into the "real world", most people only used the Internet for downloading. Whether you were visiting a Web site, downloading a software upgrade, listening to a music clip or watching a (small and slow) video, you were downloading information from the Internet.

Somebody had to upload that information for you to download it, but most people didn't know how to upload. You either needed to have technical skills or money to pay somebody who had the technical skills. As a result, only a few Internet users would upload - or publish - information; while most would download - or consume - it.

That's changed now.

In the last few years, ordinary Internet users have the ability to upload - or publish - their own material to the Internet. And they've used that ability to turn the Internet into an upload medium. If you've heard the term "Web 2.0", that's it in a nutshell.

Here are some examples:
  • Do you know something that belongs in an encyclopedia? Add it yourself to the world's biggest encyclopedia,;
  • Want to produce your own movie? It's easy - just publish it to;
  • Think you can write a better newspaper column than most journalists? Start a blog at;
  • Interested in starting your own radio station? Publish a podcast and put it in iTunes;
  • Fancy your camera skills? Upload your photos to;
  • Got an opinion about a movie, book, restaurant, city, restaurant or pop star? Write a review at any of the myriad review Web sites.
  • Passionate about something and want to share that passion with others like you? Start an on-line community at;
  • Always wanted to start your own retail business? Start it at;
  • Looking for an easy way to share things with your friends? Sign up at
Get the point? The content on the Internet is no longer in the hands of the few. Now anybody can be a publisher, a content provider and an uploader.

What does this mean for you, your business or your cause?

In marketing terms, the Internet has changed from the Yellow Pages to the White Pages.

If you think about a listing in the Yellow Pages, it's all about being found by category. If you're an electrician, you're listed along with all the other electricians. When somebody wants an electrician, they look up "Electricians", and you hope they choose you. They might never have heard of you before, but they can still find you. The only problem is, you've got to fight hard to make them choose you rather than any of the many other electricians vying for that same business.

The White Pages, on the other hand, works differently. If you're in the White Pages, you're listed by your name. Somebody who doesn't know you won't find you in the White Pages. However, if you've got a strong enough brand and reputation, customers can find you there because they know you by name.

That's the key difference in Internet marketing now. It's no longer about fighting it out in a crowded marketplace, shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!" as customers walk by. It's about getting an unfair advantage over your competition by being so good and so well-known that customers seek you out by name.

At first glance, this might look unreasonable, but in fact it's easier than you think - and a huge advantage for small players.

So what should you do?

In brief: Use Internet marketing techniques that build your on-line reputation - things like blogging, video, webinars, slide shows, podcasting, writing articles, and answering questions in forums.