If you are a digital ‘dinosaur’, prepare for the extinction of your company

Dinosaurs (image by IvanWalsh.com via Flickr)

It's dangerous being a digital 'dinosaur' (image by IvanWalsh.com via Flickr)

I wonder what Charles Darwin would say if he read the NT Times this week while also looking through the Captovate website?

The NT News carried an article about unsuspecting Darwin businesses falling prey to online scams, while local online communications agency, Captovate, in one of its spiels for a workshop talks about how to convince the ‘dinosaurs’ in your organisation that they need to be using Social Media.

What links these two items? Extinction.

What is at the core of this threat? Digital literacy, or lack thereof.

Let’s look a little deeper because this topic cuts to the heart of The RITE Series itself – preparing a best practices guide for businesses within the Northern Territory when using Social Media and Social Networking for marketing.

Online scams

On August 10, 2011, the NT News ran a story entitled, Companies warned of hacker scam.

The gist of the story was that hackers call unsuspecting Territorians claiming they are from Microsoft and asking for remote login information so they can get into their computer to fix a critical issue. When access is granted these ‘scum of the earth’ then capture contact information, passwords, etc, then send ‘begging letters’ and emails to the contacts asking for money.

What strikes me most about this is how someone with a moderate to highly developed sense of digital literacy would know they are falling victim to scam.

A few months ago, I received a call at my home number from a caller claiming to be from the International Computer Centre. He claimed they had detected some inappropriate activity on my computer and wanted to talk me through a couple of checks on my PC to confirm whether the situation was serious or not.

Because of 15 years exposure to internet marketing¬† and internet awareness, my warning bells were ringing. I asked the caller to identify his company while I kept him on the line and performed his ‘checks’.

His checks were simple little command line exercises which always bring up a scary-looking list of warning and alerts, even on healthy computers. And he started his spiel about how he needs access to my computer to fix this for me as a courtesy and then have me consider signing up for an on-going maintenance plan.

While he was doing that, I was running a Google search on his company and found thousands of entries from blogs and news sites warning people about this company and its scams.

When I asked him to explain this to me his international phone call ceased immediately. He was off to try and hook another victim.

Digital literacy is the equivalent of ‘street smarts’

When most of us walk down a deserted street in a strange town or late at night, we are alert to danger signs. When we go to crowded tourist or transit locations we are alert to pickpockets. When we join a new organisation or board or committee, we are watchful and reserved while we work out the power structure and network or relationships already in place.

We learn these skills through trial and error, experience and listening to the stories of others.

The same applies online.

When I run online marketing workshops for the Business Enterprise Centre Northern Territory and the Department of Business and Employment, I often hear stories and/or share stories around spam and scammers.

Those with digital literacy know not to click on links sent to you in emails from banks (or strangers); those without view an email claiming to be from a bank as authentic and trustworthy.

Those with digital literacy know to check the domain a link might send you to – most often it bears a similarity to a genuine domain name but we know how to spot a fake. For example, ebay.com.au is genuine but ebay.security-check.com is fake, as is ebaycom.com and trustcenter.ebay.safesend.com.

Those with digital literacy know that Microsoft or International Computer Centre or the Government Computer Department, etc, would not be phoning individuals to provide online, remote technical support. It is simply a ludicrous notion (just try calling a genuine ICT company for support and you will see how ludicrous that concept is).

So how does one gain digital literacy?

The first step is shaking off the pride of happily calling yourself a digital ‘dinosaur’, which smacks of false bravado and wins a few winks and nudges around the bar or boardroom table.

To dismiss the latest advances in online communications and marketing channels is simply a dangerous and irresponsible position to take when you manage or own a company in 2011. If my boss gave access to company information to such an obvious scammer, causing me to lose income or my job, I would consider suing his pants off!

While it might feel embarrassing to have to admit to ‘underlings’ that you don’t understand the intricacies of email or domain names or websites or social networking sites, but that is a very slight bit of pain compared to having your business fleeced or by losing market share to competitors who are exploiting these tools.

The NT News story shows that even if you simply hire out excavation equipment and think social networking is for ‘prancing little fairies’, it is still no excuse for digital illiteracy because your ignorance leaves you open to all manner of scams that can and will sneak through your defences.

Following The RITE Series is a good place to start. Come back once a week to read through the latest articles then download our eBook in October to use as a guide for if and when you do decide to take your first steps into this ‘new’ digital frontier.

It might also be good to find a trusted guide to answer your questions privately and to find ways to take more interest in some of these areas. I recall going to Darwin a couple of years ago to run some online social marketing workshops for various government departments and apart from personnel directly involved in such matters, a session was held for executives so that different questions could be asked and answered.

I encourage you to consider such options perhaps directly engaging a trusted advisor OR by asking any association you are linked to to organise a similar session, such as a Chamber of Commerce, Trades Alliance, Territory Proud gathering, precinct meeting, etc.

Remember, it is one thing to choose not to invest time and energy in online marketing or online social marketing, but it is another thing to remain ignorant of developments, purely from a self-preservation perspective.



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