I think a lot about how organizations exist on the internet. I’m not thinking so much about web companies, but rather the organizations that exist regardless of the internet or computers. These groups and businesses almost always exist in some form on the internet, and are often concerned with having either “more” presence or a “better” presence on the internet. I think we have an understanding of the quality of a presence, but I’ve been thinking that I don’t really have a good way of expressing quantity of web presence. I think, as a starting point, the quantity scale can be divided into certain layers.
Level 0: Non-Existant
The group may be real, but the internet is unaware. This can be fairly hard to achieve for organizations tied to physical locations, but for those that are more transient, is more easily possible.
Level 1: Existant
The group has been noticed by Google, foursquare, Yelp, etc. It doesn’t really matter how the information got out there, but now it’s out and in use. Users are able to find out information about the organization, though the org doesn’t necessarily control it.
Level 2: Intentional
The group has created their own space on the internet. This can take many forms, like a web page, a facebook page, or anything else that lets them collect information and organize it. It also provides them something to point other people and services to. The key distinction here is that they are now in control of their own data.
Level 3: Integrated
This is probably the vaguest stage, but that’s because it’s different for every organization. At this point, some level of core operation has moved to the web. Whether it’s sales, customer support / interaction, marketing, or something else.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to internet based organizations, or people, who generally exist in different ways. It’s interesting to note that individuals tend to move through the levels in the order of something like 0, 3, 2, 1. Starting off with interactive accounts, then creating some place to organize their digital existance before it gets picked up by other services.
This also, isn’t a checklist or plan for anyone. One level isn’t necessarily better than another. Many organizations exist well at Level 1, and shouldn’t move to Level 2, as doing that poorly can be quite damaging. Also, my local pizza place doesn’t need a website.
I think it means something to transition between these levels. Forcing yourself into Level 1 from non-existance is a big step, as is declaring your own space on the internet, or integrating your business with it. I think it’s important at each step to figure out what this means for the organization. What statement are they making by progressing?
I also wonder what we can do as an industry to not require organizations to have to push to higher levels. If every organization could get by as Level 1, without having to build a custom website, without having to build custom integration, wouldn’t that be better? Does going to a higher level mean that there’s some service that they are missing at the lower ones? If we can figure that out and provide it, wouldn’t that make their lives easier?