This article was written by Bob Bradley, SCORE Management Counselor
10 Years...This seems to be the time period that comes up most often when successful internet marketers are asked "how long have you been doing this?". It is also interesting to note that Google celebrated only its 11th anniversary just last month. That's right, only eleven years!! In the last 5-7 years the real commercialization of website marketing has taken place. Google now indexes over 1 TRILLION unique URLs and it is estimated that there are over 200 million websites and still growing at about 3 million per month. The latest market share reports indicate that Google is getting close to performing 75% of the searches worldwide. Bottom line is that people accept the web world as part of their lives even though this was not always the case. This is similar to the horse people accepting autos back in the early 1900s
However, with this growth rules have arrived. Search providers spend large sums of money to present a "pure" search result to the user based on the searcher's query. Substantial revenues can be generated by a company by being in the top 5 search results. Thus, the schemers and scammers attempt to wedge their way to the top five or ten by employing nefarious techniques. To battle this the search engine providers come up with more rules and controls. This results in complexities when attempting to create a successful web presence. One must learn and follow the rules and use prescribed techniques to "get found" that comply with the rules and the terms of service. Websites can be taken down for violations.
Now we are seeing explosive growth in the social media. Many scoff at social media sites as a passing fad, or something only for teenagers. No marketer worth their salt can ignore that there are over 250 million users of Facebook and between Facebook and MySpace they get 130 million hits each month. For perspective, when Google was Facebook's age they had 50 million users. Users of Facebook stay on the sites just under 30 minutes (in a world where 2 minutes is good) and the fastest growing segment of registered users in Facebook is the over 35 age group. Twitter has been in existence for just over 2 years, they have 42 employees and have amassed over 35 million users. They have little or no revenue model as of yet and are backed by numerous investors expecting a good payday.
What does this mean to a marketer? Social media, as a business, is positioned just where websites were 10 years ago. There are no real rules right now and opportunities may be everywhere. Rest assured that real entrepreneurs are taking this trend seriously and they will find ways to monetize their efforts. Money will be made and money will be lost. Meanwhile those that scoff will be the ones trying "me to" marketing efforts a few years from now and find themselves stymied by how hard it is to make any real money in social media. History does repeat. Get a horse!