Are You A Digital Illiterate?

Are You A Digital Illiterate?

Being digitally literate is an essential for businesses today. There are a surprising number of business operators who are, basically, digitally illiterate – they simply do not understand how to harness technology to improve their business outcomes nor do they understand how the digital world works.

But, more importantly, as a consequence of their ignorance they simply do not realise the threat that the digital economy represents to businesses that are not (or do not) get on board.

Here’s my definition of digital literacy – just so as we are all on the same page for this article:

“Digital literacy is the ability to understand & use information in multiple formats & from a wide range of sources. It includes knowledge, skills, and behaviors involving the effective use of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs for purposes of communication, marketing & collaboration”.

Here’s the question, if you were illiterate in the literal sense, what chance do you think you would have to successfully run a business?

Whilst it wouldn’t be impossible, it would be very difficult. You wouldn’t understand much of what makes the business tick (customer trends, statistics, etc), what your competitors were up to or where opportunities really were.

And yet, business operators across the land routinely write off their ignorance of matters digital as “Not that important”. Or they justify their lack of understanding by placing the responsibility of digital awareness/understanding with their younger staff.

It’s a topic that won’t be resolved anytime soon: the computer and digital literacy of local business operators is as big a gulf as there is in small business.

Those that are more literate can take advantage of new digital tools & trends that will reduce the cost of administration, while others’ use of computers stops at email, perhaps social media, and increasing the cost of having all else outsourced or hired in.

Make no mistake, if your digital literacy is questionable or non-existent, it is only a matter of time (& a short time at that) before you become obsolete (& your business with it). Here, again, the “Survival of the fittest” rule applies – in the case of digital literacy, the digitally literate will, eventually wipe out the digitally illiterate.

So, which side of that fence do you want to be sitting on?

Ignorance is not a life sentence – it’s a conscious choice! In our digital age, information has never been more accessible – you can shift from being illiterate to literate in a relatively short space of time. Is the shift easy?


If it were easy, everyone would have already made the move. The big questions are – where is your digital illiteracy hurting your prospects the most & how do you rectify this?

Here are a few areas to consider……


Like all business skills, there is a fine balance between being able to DIY non-core aspects of your business and outsourcing it to someone who can do it much faster and cheaper.

This makes services like Fiver ( and offshore agencies a real boon for high labour cost businesses, as outsourcing becomes much more feasible than it was in the past — providing you can find the person with the right skills for your business, & develop techniques for managing remote staff. Here, again, though you can access those techniques through online courses & learning tools (if you know where to look).

There are a myriad ways to market to your target base – far too many to cover here – so let’s just focus on the main ones:

  • Website (you do have one of those….. don’t you?) for example. A website has two kinds of maintenance: technical maintenance and content maintenance.Technical maintenance is the digital equivalent of having equipment or machinery serviced. An expert gets ‘under the hood’ and repairs and maintains aspects of the website to ensure optimum technical performance. You can source some very knowledgeable technicians online at very reasonable costs.

    Content maintenance refers to the ability to alter the words, pictures, links and files (the information) your website contains.

    These days, DIY tools proliferate for content maintenance – it is now mostly performed using a website editor or content management system (CMS), content editing can now be done in-house — if not by the business operator then by an assistant – staff or external contractors.

    However, just because you can do it yourself (inhouse) doesn’t mean you should! For start up or struggling business, this DIY quandary is never ending as the number of non-core business activities seems to grow with every technological development.

  • Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc You may not be using any of these – you may even believe that it’s a waste of time (because you don’t bother with that nonsense yourself – right?) – unfortunately (for you) your customers don’t share your opinion (but they are doing business with your competitors as a result!).If you are in business & the business isn’t on social media, you’re going out of business. Not today or even next week but soon. At some point you have to bite the bullet on this & start to develop a profile.

    They say ignorance is bliss – largely because you don’t realise a disaster is looming until it actually hits you. Then ignorance is painful. Don’t be ignorant!

    Inform yourself about social media, decide which platforms suit your market & get involved. Now!!

  • Youtube– technically, this is a part of the social media world. It’s dealt with separately here because it is so important. Everyone’s heard the adage “A picture paints a thousand words”, well a video is a moving picture & conveys more in a few seconds than you could hope to in dozens of pages.It’s also the most effective way of communicating to your target market without them realising what’s going on.

    Whilst video used to be horribly expensive to produce, the digital revolution has made it excitingly cheap! You can produce the sort of video messages that people share & talk about using nothing more than your mobile phone.

    Google the term “Facebook Live videos” & you’ll have all the information you need to start your journey towards literacy in this area


When was the last time you reviewed your internal processes?

Here’s an area that every business owner loves – being able to reduce operating costs or being able to improve procedures (to give you a competitive edge & your customers a better experience).

The digital revolution provides just that. Here’s a few starting points to look at:

  • They say that a good accountant never costs you a cent – & that’s true. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of really good ones out there (sorry guys!). So if you don’t have a good accountant look at your digital options as far as sourcing your needs online or streamlining your processes so that your financial information is available to you with the click of a button rather than after several hours of pouring through receipts.
  • Internal records processing, data entry & the like can easily be outsourced. Why pay wages or high hourly rates when you can get a lot of that work done at a fraction of the cost? It’s all very well to support your local community but if that support is threatening the viability of your business it’s time to rethink.


Are you getting the best deal on your raw materials? Do you know? Digitisation of the planet means that your potential suppliers could literally come from anywhere & you are only a few mouse clicks away from finding out – if you know where to look.

But in order to do that you need to understand how to search effectively online – and guess what…. There are courses you can take that show you how to do this!
The world has moved on from the time when a local business owner had to know everything to be able to run their business. We’re now in a place where you no longer need to know everything (let’s face it, there’s too much for any one person to know anyhow) – you just need to know where to find it.

And that is what digital technology does best – find things! You just need to know the best questions to ask of it. This is why digital literacy is so important, unless you at least understand it you cannot possibly hope to master it.

You also need to know when & where to draw the line between what you can do for yourself, as opposed to what you should do for yourself – always a fine line & sometimes you are not going to get it right but be prepared to at least give it a go.

So, if you are to the digital age what stone-age man was to electricity it’s time to take stock & do something about it – before it does something about you!


Dennis is a “Digital Nomad” with an MBA in Marketing Management & has been involved in the online environment for over 15 years. He helps local businesses develop sustainable online marketing programs by applying a strategic focus to laser target what a business needs to be doing & when. He can be contacted at


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