I had hoped to be writing about the future of the Covid traffic lights, mandates and, hopefully, a material reduction in restrictions on business.
Alas, we have to wait while more thinking is done – despite the days, weeks and months that have been available to ponder the virus of unknown origins.
Before I write about something else, I need to say the isolation restrictions need to be reduced or removed entirely. The amount of management time taken away by having to manage the impacts of staff having to isolate means core business functions suffer.
If you saw Saturday's Whanganui Chronicle, these restrictions are starting to bite and bringing unnecessary additional pressure for business owners. Some businesses are withdrawing services and/or closing entirely (some temporary and some permanent) because of the impacts of what more and more people are reporting as "a bad cold" or "mild flu".
In the past I have written, quite positively, about advances in technology. I have touched on things like the function of the Netflix algorithm through to smart reporting packages (Xero and MYOB being two of them) that assist business owners with monitoring their business. But when it comes to technological advancement, there's something that has been gnawing away in the back of my mind of late, and it has something to do with the virus we are so preoccupied with – social media and misinformation.
Back in the day, I was an enthusiastic convert to Facebook and other social media forms; in fact, I have even written about them in this column. But, over time, I have become more sceptical and now note that Facebook in particular is a delivery device for advertisements that you don't want and pages that you have either wilfully or inadvertently "liked".
The way this has transpired is mostly by stealth and gives credence to the statement that there is no such thing as a free lunch. But worst of all, there is no moderation so, in the case of business, anybody can say anything about your business (good or bad) and, unless you pay or recruit someone to manage it, there is nothing you can do if mistruths are published by punters.
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Case in point is a local business I regularly support, that notified the public of a change in operating hours due to the virus. This was a completely rational decision and delivered in the right way. In no time, an anti-vaxxer had swept in to criticise the decision and question the owner's thinking. This is mild by comparison with others that I have seen (and would be unfit to print here) but there is no evidence the person had ever frequented the business, and the post had an undercurrent of criticism towards how the business had managed the vaccination passports and other restrictions (they did a fantastic job of this, by the way).
The whys and wherefores of misinformation and its prevalence on social media are a topic for another time. But, as a business owner, you need to determine if you want your business to be open to attack and/or if the costs associated with a social presence match or outweigh the benefits. Facebook actually limits your access to certain friends, Twitter is a venue where people go to shout at others not of their ideological persuasion, Instagram teaches people how to pose or take great photos of food and alcoholic beverages, and Tik Tok ... I have no idea about the purpose of Tik Tok, apart from sharing yourself with the Chinese Communist Party.
So, where to from here? Technology, amazing as it is, is both here to stay and still a growing part of our business lives. So we need to move with it but we also need to beware of the pitfalls of placing too much faith in the platforms we are trusting, in the same way we would trust our neighbour or local shopkeeper. There is an opportunity for businesses to operate in an "e" way and also ensure their systems protect themselves and assist customers/users – the ones that find that balance first will be truly effective future business practice.