What is an online asset?

Lots of different people, smart people, have come up with varying definitions for online assets, digital assets, web assets and the like.  As a small business owner, it is difficult keeping track of the sheer volume of technology terms and concepts that dominate social media sites, blogs and the media.

Running your business is hard enough.

And it gets even worse when the industry itself can’t agree on what the terms mean.

As a 20 year veteran of the online space, and 30 years as a direct marketing professional, I am throwing in my 2 cents.
Over time, a small business owner will make a range of investments to create and manage the online presence of their business. These investments include websites, social media assets, marketing images/ads, directory listings, reviews – the works. Essentially everything that a small business does that has to do with promoting their business online, marketing online, and communicating with customers and prospects online creates a series of online assets. Some of these assets are owned, some are leased, and some are only borrowed.

So I have broken down the “stuff” into one big bucket I call Online Assets which are made up of three distinct investments that SMBs make in their overall online presence:

Online Assets (general concept)
  1. Internet Assets
  2. Digital Assets
  3. Website Assets
Internet Assets – leased or borrowed internet real estate properties such as online directories, social media sites, local business sites, and other websites that either set up a page for your business or actively encourage you to set up a page for your business.  These Internet Assets are only borrowed. There are terms and conditions that apply to your use of their websites, and in most cases, these terms can change at anytime restricting your use and access or charging you fees to use their services.

Digital assets – 
are defined by many as content, imagery, rich media files, or anything that has to do with the running of a business in electronic form (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_asset). Photographs, logos, marketing banners, videos, podcasts, advertisements, contracts, proposals, product manuals, owner’s manuals and the like.  These digital assets need to be accounted for, controlled, and used appropriately.  And often they need to be shared with large groups of people including vendors, contractors, employees, and customers. Digital assets are usually one of the online assets that has intrinsic value for the small business and is often 100% owned by the organization.

Website assets (or web assets for short) – are defined as the assets that exist on the wholly owned internet real estate of a business. For most small businesses, this set of assets revolves around the creation and management of the business website. The assets include the programming code, the web layout, the URLs (uniform resource locator – i.e. http://www.yourcompany.com/services), the images and content, and any stored customer information (emails, contact information, credit cards, etc).  Website assets can be owned or leased.  Some businesses pay to have a website built in which they own the programming and code for their website – WordPress sites are a good example.  Some businesses simply lease a website platform (Square Space, Wix, Google Sites, and the like).  In this case, the small business might own the words, some of the imagery, the stored customer information, and even the URLs but they do not own the programming code or the platform. So when we talk about website assets, we really are talking about those assets that can actually be owned by the company.

For every small business, there will be a collection of online assets that are necessary to do business online, whatever that means for your organization.  Some are digital assets, some are internet assets and some are website assets.  All of them combine to allow a business to thrive (or flounder) with the management of their online presence.  The first and most important place to start is to assess and inventory your specific set of online assets and ask your self a series of questions:
  • Do I know what assets make up my online presence?
  • Do I have control of these assets?
  • Is there a backup process for the assets?
  • Is there a reasonable storage, retrieval and sharing plan for these assets?

Most small businesses get stuck on the very first question and can’t even consider the rest.  They are making financial and resource investments into their online presence and just hoping for the best. Hoping that nothing bad will happen.

My hope is that this post gives the small business owner a starting point in this process of managing and controlling the necessary investments into creating an effective online presence.  It’s an easy first step and crucial to ensure the long term protection of your investments.

Please feel free to reach out to myself or Colin Foster to answer any questions you might have or comments you’d like to make.