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Why the new never completely drives out the old

I was speaking to a very smart client this week responsible for answering customer questions for a large company. (I am seeing several clients start to treat their “support” team as part of marketing, and this company is a prime candidate to do the same.) My client rattled off all sorts of evidence for why social media was becoming the new force in providing customer support. Customers go to social media, rather than to our company’s website, he concluded. He then asked me, “So why should we invest in search engines, content management systems, and even content for our website? Shouldn’t we move all of our investment to social media?”

On the face of it, it would seem like the answer is “yes.” Too often, we keep investing in old stuff and don’t give the new stuff its due. Here, finally, is a forward-looking person ready to shift investment in the face of changing conditions. But my answer was “no.”

I had my reasons, too. While social media is the flavor of the month, the truth is that not “all” customers have moved to social media. So, while you should be making an investment there, you shouldn’t completely zero out your investment in your website, which many (maybe most) customers still use. In addition, the content assets you create that answer the questions are the fodder that need to be shared on social, too, to answer the same questions. Even though it seems like the new eats the old for lunch, that usually is not the case. It’s typically more subtle than that.

And that’s the problem with always looking at the new new thing. The new new thing might be trendy and hot, and should definitely garner some resources, but it usually doesn’t reduce the old thing to zero. TV didn’t kill radio–it just reduced it. The web didn’t kill newspapers and magazines–but it certainly changed the ways in which we use them.

After a little discussion with my client, he began to be persuaded that social isn’t completely obliterating websites and website content. After all, websites have been with us for 20 years, and customers still use email to ask questions. Email has been with us for 40 years, and customers still use the phone to ask a question.

Web chat didn’t kill anything either.

Each of these techniques merely changed how you use the ones that come before. Each time a new technique comes along, the usage of older ones are reduced, but they typically don’t go to zero. Making the sound decisions on allocating your resources based on usage is one of the key ways that we optimize our spending.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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