(be warned this is not a short read and the good stuff is at the bottom)
If you follow anything just about anywhere the subject somehow always turns to the economy, and it should. Money makes the world go around and it’s the basis for our capitalist society. The confusion comes in when we try to figure out what has happened or is happening. It’s simple: the everyday individual has become as powerful as major media, has found ways to be as influential as any politician, can walk away from most jobs and compete with their former employer in many cases with better customer service at a far lower cost.
Unemployment in the United States is around 8% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but many argue that the number could be closer to 30% because it doesn’t take into account those that are underemployed, or are no longer reporting looking for employment or their benefits expired.
The Digital Age arguably has a much longer history then the .com revolution, but this was the turning point that corporations and leadership in the United States missed, or just underestimated. The introduction of the web into the homes of American consumers began the shift in how we consume content. The development of search engines like Google redefined how we learn, in fact Education institutions at all levels still struggle with combating things like plagiarism and balancing the traditional book i.e. encyclopedia vs. the web i.e. Wikipedia. The Social Media revolution changed how we communicate and the mobile rush changed the speed at which we access and share content.
Digital Media’s Effect on the Business and the Economy
There is a battle going on between wisdom and knowledge and the business is coming out as the loser. There are a lot of reasons one can point to the current economic crisis, and the effect it has had on business in the United States. While some point to the greed on Wall Street from Home Loans, or Student Loans, they may not be why we can’t recover.
Education & Digital Media
Today’s youth faces an interesting choice, go to college and spend $40k – $120k and then learn how to use Digital Communications, or start as an intern for a digital company or startup and give 4 years of ups and downs and come out with a skill set that is more attractive than a college degree. In fact in many cases it will flat out provide the knowledge, skills and ability to put another agency or business out of business.
The ability to understand how to build a user, social and search – friendly website is already a major advantage, and take into account that using tools like WordPress and CopyBlogger could help you launch the framework you’ll need to get started for less than a week’s work and a few hundred dollars, it’s no wonder self-employment is on the rise (according to U.S. SBA). Take that to the next level and think about professional development, as a solopreneur you need to learn, set a pattern or “Read, Write and Share” and now you have a learning plan that can in many ways be more effective than traditional education. This also becomes the content, or story of you and your business, arguably the key component to marketing and business in the Digital Age.
Wisdom vs. Knowledge
Wisdom is a process, it takes experience and relationships to really acquire the skill set that gives you the ability to make long-term decisions. Wisdom is the value that seasoned professionals and some corporations bring to the table, they tend to provide stable long-term solutions through an understanding of the bigger picture.
Knowledge is simply information, it has become nearly limitless and requires little effort to acquire, in many cases provided simply through a solution phrase “Google It”. Knowledge allows many to know more than the individual or corporation next to them by simply spending time to consume content.
A traditional corporation still moves like an iceberg, even if they bring in young talent, that individual is shaped and conforms to the hierarchy and becomes developmentally limited because of the structure they must adhere to. While in many cases they provide long-term solutions that are time-tested and proven, they also suffer for that practice. Time-Tested and Proven is the practice of pre-Digital Age business and is the reason why newspapers nearly went extinct. Once you consider the traditional models overhead for their employees, it’s no wonder you shake your head and try to figure out why their profits are down and their prices are up.
The solopreneur was stuck having to decide, work 9-5 for $60k a year (before taxes) likely with a commute or work at your own pace in a manner that fits you for $40 – $120k with taxes subject to your expenses (S Corp). The solopreneur lives in their community, can operate with significantly less overhead and pivots to solutions as they are introduced to the market. This means the business owner can get the website that was presented to him for $10k for $2k and in many cases will have someone who has a stronger relationship and understanding of that business and the community it serves. After all, why would they work for you, if they can work for themselves and do it for less with more freedom.
Starting to understand the wisdom vs. knowledge analogy?
This is at the heart of the current issue facing the United States economy, the balance between the two is swinging at the far ends of both, after all the best talent isn’t going to come to work for a corporation for less than what they can make for themselves and that’s not even giving consideration to the ego and freedom of being an independent business owner. The issue they face of “lack of corporate support” is vanishing in some industries like marketing as companies like Google and Constant Contact have now built entire service systems around training independent agencies and consultants, in many cases better than larger agencies can. This is nothing new to companies like AVON, Amway and Lia Sophia who have built their entire business model on helping independent business owners be the best trained service agents the world has to offer in their industry.
How can the United States fix the economy is they don’t understand the change Digital has had on business? Policies that have been initiated by traditional models don’t fit when the middle market talent is rewarded by competing with the corporations they would have gone to work for. Now take into account laws and restrictions for some industries that just don’t fit into things like mobile and social marketing and you have a big issue facing the future of business in the United States, who regulates this?
The Case for Regulation
I hate to say it, but business is suffering from the two extremes; First there is the inflated expenses from a corporation product or service that is caused by unorganized management, poor execution and in most cases unneeded overhead. It doesn’t seem to get better when that product or service comes from an independent consultants who in many cases means well but can’t provide the actual solution their offering.
What’s worse? Is it the $10k for a website that really should be priced at $2k – $5k that prevents a business from spending money in other ways to make use of that tool to generate new business, made even worse by the those that can’t come up with that investment. Perhaps it’s a website at $2k – $5k that doesn’t have the branding and structure to build new business, missing the simple basics like digital call to actions, social and search integration and other data and lead capture features. In either case the business on the purchasing side is facing an issue that prevents their business from seeing digital success.
It leaves the digital industry in flux as corporations and agencies have been as guilty for selling junk solutions to offset their losses on traditional products as those overnight solopreneurs and consultants that are offering budget solutions that don’t work either.
In the end, digital media is a necessity of business. If business owners don’t find ways to incorporate digital strategies into their product offerings, services and brand story they’re not going to be in business for long. In many cases, without a digital strategy most businesses will never reach their full potential. If these business owners don’t know how to tell a legitimate provider from a scarlet corporation or consultant it too will destroy their business. It’s not just consultants and agencies either, it can be a standalone service, something like say Groupon?
We have regulations and oversight for Insurance, Healthcare, Telecommunications, Banking and so on. It’s time someone stepped in and set a standard for the bare minimum before you can represent the service for sale to a business or a consumer. It shouldn’t restrict competition and creativity, but it should set a standard for minimum practices to represent yourself as a provider in the industry and to think I haven’t even touched the issue of individuals or companies teaching or offering training in it. It’s scary when in most cases they themselves clearly don’t know what they are doing with it and have no professional development experience or training with education learning objectives or adult learning practices.
- Social Media Consultant Gone Bad… Real Bad!
- BLS December 2012 News Release
- Small Business Quarterly Bulletin
- Bad Corporate Websites
- Bad Social Media Consultants Can Wreck Your Brand
- Are SEOs Destroying Small Businesses? A Penguin Story
- Could Bad SEO Bring Down Your Business?
- Groupon Was “The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner”
About Basil Puglisi
@BasilPuglisi is a Content Contributor and the Chairman of the Board for Digital Ethos. Basil C. Puglisi is also the Digital Marketing Manager for PMG Interactive. As the Digital Marketing Manager he provides oversight and support to Digital Campaigns, from Website Development to Search and Social Reach.