It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get caught up in the hype of the latest trends in technology, mobile apps, social media, and the like. Many breakthroughs in these areas are indeed valuable for small businesses, particularly those that do all or most of their business online. However, much of what you hear on these fronts is hyped way out of proportion.
Sometimes, the person promoting the new trend has a vested interest. Just as often, people get enthusiastic about the latest bright and shiny thing. To help put this into perspective, here are a few overrated leading tech trends:
You can’t argue that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and others are huge. If you have a business, then it’s definitely a good idea to be active on at least a couple of these sites. However, many small businesses have an unrealistic notion about how easy it is to build a huge and profitable following on social media.
It’s deceptively easy to start a Facebook page and Twitter account. It’s not even that hard to build up a large number of likes or followers. Many social media marketing companies can do this for you at a surprisingly low cost. The bad news is the whole world of social media marketing has tended to focus more on quantity than quality. Many people who market themselves as social media experts or specialists do little more than put up pages and purchase likes or followers from people who only signed up because they were promised a reward. These followers may have little real interest in your business.
Finally, we cannot forget that the main purpose of social networking is to socialize. While business certainly can be conducted using these networks, users have an inherent hostility toward ads and marketing messages. That’s why we’re seeing such a growing backlash against Facebook.
Building a real social media following takes quite a bit of time and effort. It should be part of your overall marketing and brand-building strategy. It should not be thought of as a quick and cheap substitute.
Mobile marketing is a real phenomenon, though often blown out of proportion. While mobile devices have grown enormously popular in the last few years, this doesn't mean that traditional PCs will soon be obsolete. Desktops still serve some important purposes, and have advantages that cannot be matched by devices with smaller screens. If you want to get a good view of graphics or videos, a larger screen is helpful. Mobile phones and tablets are also harder to type on than computers with full-sized keyboards. True, you can attach a larger keyboard to a device such as a tablet, but that is doing away with the smaller device’s main advantage.
This is crucial so that you don’t get swept away by the idea that mobile devices and mobile advertising are the absolute future of online marketing. While it’s useful to have a responsive website that can be viewed equally well on all devices, don’t put all of your efforts into a mobile website.
Similarly, it’s not safe to assume that all of your website visitors will soon be using mobile devices. At least for the foreseeable future, users on devices of all shapes and sizes will be checking out your website.
Cloud computing has many useful applications, but it’s become such a buzzword that many people assume it’s the ideal solution for everyone. There are several drawbacks of cloud computing that you should be aware of before you put all of your resources into the cloud.
Beware of the security risks in putting all of your data into a cloud-based service. No matter what security measures are taken, common sense indicates more opportunities for data to be compromised exist on the Internet rather than on your own personal storage system.
Another issue that you should investigate before committing to cloud solutions is cost. The stated benefit of cloud-based services are that they only charge you for resources you actually use. However, in reality you usually have to sign up for plans that involve a certain commitment. This may or may not be economical for you compared to an in-house software solution. The point is that you shouldn't simply assume that cloud computing is always the best.
These recent tech trends demand a certain amount of scrutiny. One caveat to keep in mind, though—overrated does not mean worthless. Each of these trends is very important in its own way. But although each are often presented as an all-encompassing panacea, they are not the ultimate answers. It’s not that you should discount them; only that you should keep them in proper perspective.
—Shawn Porat is the CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a non-traditional and out of home media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.
[Image: Flickr user Alan Levine]