Recently, all the rage is over the abundance of information readily available online via internet searches, social media. e mail blasts, and on and on. There are dozens, and probably even hundreds of different outlets to promote business offerings through new digital media, and it is exciting. We have have new methods to instantly reach out and communicate with our customers while sitting in the recliner sipping morning coffee, or sitting poolside on a lazy Sunday afternoon. These ways to advertise seem to have captivated the minds of many business owners trying to reach potential customers.
Here’s the rub, on line out reach is great, but a very high percentage of the information distributed through those media is wrong or outdated. In many cases, nobody polices it or updates it. Just last week, I came across a local online directory of sorts that serves the same market that I’m trying to eke out a living in. Out of 42 business names on the list that met the search criteria, 9 were out of business, the names had changed, or other information was wrong. That’s over 20% inaccurate. You would never tolerate a traditional broadcast media running one out of every five commercials wrong, and we would never think to even try such a thing.
On another occasion, earlier this year, I found a listing in the on line phone directory for a gentleman that had passed away in 1985. The odd thing there is, not only had it not been updated, but somebody actually would have entered that outdated data at some point in time after his death, since the internet wasn’t around in the mid eighties. Although, it was accurate in a sense, in that they had him listed as being 117 years old. My guess is, a reverse search of the address listed where the guy once lived, say if you were looking to buy a house, might prove to be just as unfruitful.
No doubt you have already searched a topic and started reading a post, blog an article, only to discover later on that it was like ten years old. Finding accurate, current information can be challenging sometimes to say the least, and this is among publishers with good intentions. We’re not talking here about folks who write stuff designed to amuse or deceive. Don’t believe me? Search your favorite pro team’s schedule. You’ll get the current year, along with links to old website pages that are still live with schedules from previous years. Some of the sites are even reputable ones that you recognize, so it’s very easy to start planning a day trip to go to the stadium and catch a certain game, only to realize you were viewing a 2013 schedule and didn’t look close enough. Because information seems to never go away after it’s pertinent, and continues to appear in searches, online marketers put the burden on the user to decipher what is valid, and what is not. By comparison, broadcasters can get into big trouble if they knowing deceive their audience.
Traditional electronic media that are licensed by the federal government have a much higher standard of accuracy and accountability, and people expect that of their radio and television stations. Consumers assume that if it is on the air, it’s true, and by and large, it is. Nobody has to worry about 20% of the morning or evening news stories on any major media being wrong or outdated, or a fifth of the commercials aired during those newscasts promoting products and services that don’t exist anymore. It doesn’t happen. People depend on what they see and hear from traditional mass media outlets. Even the Yellow Pages in the old days would update their phone book each year. While somewhat obsolete, the information contained in the old school phone books was virtually guaranteed to be true and accurate. Not so with their new newfangled reincarnated cyber versions of themselves.
When formulating where to invest ad dollars, and I am totally in favor of including new media in your advertising mix, but you have to weigh the value of being involved with a media that is 100% accurate and dependable, versus one that has to be checked and verified for accuracy. It’s kind of like the quality versus quantity thing. Both media are good, so long as you buy it right, and know what you are getting. It’s certainly still worth something to be included among other outdated or false listings, but there are some real draw backs. For one, you are depending on the consumer to sift through the info and eventually make a correct buying decision about your business, and you don’t have control over that.
Mark Peterson is available for business performance/marketing consultation. For an appointment. call 724-846-4100.