I was having a conversation with my web consultant about how I could best utilize the variety of tools available as Imagine continues to build our platform and awareness in 2009. I commented to him, that while I certainly fall on the leading edge (though I wouldn't say I'm an early adopter) of people utilizing online tools, my clients clearly are not. While I'm not certain, I bet that no more than 10% of my clients actually know what Twitter is - let alone understand why anyone would use it. It's for this reason that, despite my personal interest in the subject, I've written very little about utilizing online tools - often called Web2.0 or social media (BTW, I detest both of these terms).
My opinion has been that my clients - the forward thinking small and mid-sized business executives I work with - didn't need to focus on online issues per se, so long as they utilized effective growth methodologies. My philosophy has always been (and continues to be) to focus on results and don't worry so much about what you call the process. While my philosophy hasn't changed, my opinion about the need for fast growth executives to be aware of, and understand these particular tactics have.
"On line tools" have dramatically changed the landscape of competition and the expectations of customers. Today, buyers visit blogs and don't know that they're on a blog. Today, anyone who is dissatisfied can let the world know just how dissatisfied they are - and the record of that dissatisfaction never goes away. Today, people - buyers - are talking in ways that we could never have predicted even two years ago (I would have bet good, good money that my mom would never be on anything like Facebook). The fact is, if your business is not actively engaged in this conversation, it is highly likely that your business will become irrelevant.
The chart above illustrates the various levels buyers participate. The only type of buyer that is not impacted by this new world of "content marketing" are inactives - and if you're entire market is made up of inactives it won't be around for very long. Every other type of buyer participates. They may do so quietly or annonymously (Spectators), but rest assured they are participating and they are being influenced. So, whatever it is you sell, whever your market; if you haven't started boning up on blogs, RSS feeds, communities, groundswells, twitter, etc. - you've got some catching up to do.