Before the arrival of the Platforms… products & services were promoted the good old-fashioned way via Emails and independent websites.
With the arrival of the platforms, the Advertising & Marketing models fundamentally changed — see article on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Flowing from this legislation the traditional wisdoms of marketing were upended.
Allow me to illustrate from our own experience when publishing our ezine — It’s My Life — in the early 2000s…
We learned that the same person needed to see and hear from us roughly about 8-9 times before they engaged… and then we needed to address questions and concerns to build trust. If they are convinced by our value propositions, they may begin to try out our products & services. And if it meets their expectations and needs, we’ve gained a client. With enough clients, we then work on retention by upskilling and expanding services without a drop in quality, etc. As a Publisher, we focused on the organic growth of our readership (to ensure integrity of data)… and we paid attention to opening rates (to see if our presentations & communication were effective)… and we also did our best to ensure all the Businesses that advertised with us were genuine (to build trust for our Brand).
But under section 230, platforms are legally protected from being liable for fraudulent content. And the marketplace soon began to morph because in order to provide ‘free content’, platforms needed Advertising revenue to survive. And so checks and balances were relegated to supercharged revenue streams. Many independent publishers, like ours, folded because we just couldn’t compete with their purported ‘value propositions’.
So we shut down our ezine and moved to web design. In 2016, however, when we were invited to provide Internet Marketing solutions for Nusantara Collection ( ref. The Nusantara Story, Part 1 ), we decided to revisit the current Advertising & Marketing models, and I consulted with experts from top advertising agencies and others. They tell me the model is broken and even they struggle to understand how platforms work. I then learned that within the platforms’ current Advertising models, the largest chunk went to SEO (search engine optimization). This informed me that many small and medium-sized companies would be disadvantaged because that is a very expensive route to market and best serves already established Brands — Their business models are not designed to serve aspiring small independent companies that want to move up the value chain.
Platforms are touted to amplify small businesses. But do they? In a crowded and extremely noisy space, how does one communicate USPs (unique selling propositions)… particularly if one can’t reach the same audience over a fixed period of time? And how can you tell your compelling stories to a captive audience if your voice is drowned out in chaotic platforms? Do intrusive Ads work… especially if it’s disconnected from the message and we don’t trust the Advertisement? The constantly shifting goalposts also drained us of energy that could be better employed for other aspects of our Business.
More questions. Can value-added products be served by just short videos? It appears to me those models serve best in pricing competitions where it’s hard to preserve value creation. And I see more and more SMEs and small independent brands having to go off-platform, resorting to physical popups/exhibitions/stores to sell their wares.
Questions, questions and more questions… but with seemingly no answers from the experts on platform marketing.
Furthermore, the business models of current platforms were designed for an environment of low interest rates. That environment doesn’t exist anymore, and now most have to redesign their Business Models to the new environment. So I expect more fee raises and more turbulence as they adapt. In the current scenario, Internet Marketing on platforms appears a risky proposition if we cannot invest in a second option.
And so, instead of doubling down — since even the experts are lost in this convoluted maze — we decided to downgrade the use of platforms as the primary marketing tool until there is more visibility.
Perhaps deeper pockets may have an alternative route navigating the platforms… but SMEs like ours can’t afford it. After much reflection and consultation, we decided to revive It’s My Life… going back to basics and the tested old-style (pre-platform) marketing approach.