If you consider yourself a business person, and your business revolves around the internet, it might be good to consider how you spend your time building that business. Why bring this up? Because it's very easy to find yourself doing what "feels" like business instead of working on what will make you revenue and bring you success.
Take email, for instance. You depend on it for a good portion of your business communication, and yet, why are you leaving it open and checking it incessantly? Is the velocity of your checking it really yielding you more potential clients? That's just one of many ways we chew up our time. Let's go through a quick check to ensure that we keep to our goals for using the web.
WHY Are You There?
There are values to using the Internet for your business. You can use listening tools to grow bigger ears and hear what people are saying about your company. You can maintain a Web site (or better still, a blog) and gain organic search value for your company, and help your business get discovered by new potential clients. You can read up on trends and learn how others are using the Internet to be successful.
But there are lots of great distractions along the way. For one, are the stories you're reading on the net helping you get more business value? Or are they just "interesting"? Keep a little ticker and decide whether the last 20 blog posts or news pieces you read will really change the way you do business. If not, why are you reading them?
Are you on Twitter or Facebook? What's your goal? Now, don't just talk business all the time, as that will easily backfire. But if you find yourself just using the "virtual watercooler" effect, ask yourself how much time you'd want an employee spending, if they were standing at the water cooler inside your own company. It's important to be social. Determine how much time you should spend.
Ask yourself WHY questions about your time on the web often.
What COULD You Do on the Web That's Valuable?
Get an egg timer, real or virtual, and set time limits. Now, let's use some of those time limits to do something useful. We already agreed that listening for potential customers, listening to manage potential complaints, listening for opportunities was good. What else could you do?
Tell good stories: People (your potential customers) might like good content (blogs or video or email, etc) that educates them, that equips them to succeed in their missions, that gives them more decision-making information. That's time well-spent, especially if it ends in a sale.
Develop new conversion points: People might not be able to buy your product easily via the web (I'm not about to buy the new Buick from a Web site, though as a quick sidebar, we used to think no one would buy shoes from the web, and Zappos.com made that a $1.06 billion truth). Are there new ways to get people into a conversion stream?
For instance, maybe we can't sell high definition televisions on the web, but look at the Sears TV Finder, which is an interactive tool that warms people up to the buying process. Can you come up with ways to convert?
Improve Customer Service: Some of the biggest stories in using the web for business have come from the less-than-glamorous effects that social networks have delivered for customer service. How does it work? People are talking about your products (good or bad) already on their blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook. Get in there and help them out. If you've got an actual customer service department, make this part of the job. It will change things.
Prospect: The social network revolution has equipped people with lots of tools to talk about themselves. As a side effect, there are tons of bits of data that might point out the demeanor of your potential new customer, might give you insight into where someone is spending their time, etc. You've got lots you can glean, if you take the time to study.
The Internet Isn't Evil: Wasting Time is Evil
The piece was titled "Stop Wasting Your Time on the Internet." The Internet isn't bad. How we waste time is bad. It's in your hands to decide how to use these tools for value. I make value for businesses every day using the Internet, and you can, too. But then again, I waste my time sometimes on the Internet, and unfortunately, you can, too. Let's help each other out.
Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at chrisbrogan.com.