May 21, 2012 1 Comment
A lot of my friends and colleagues have been passing around this infographic lately:
As the chart clearly shows, we’re a social group. I’ve seen (and posted myself) this chart on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and others. It shouldn’t surprise me. It shouldn’t surprise any of us. We’re in the business of communications, we’re constantly searching for some new, different, way to communicate. When you factor in that our clients demand that we have a POV on every new Instagram clone, or digital pinboard, of course we’re going to be heavy users of social media.
But we also need to remember who we are talking TO.
This past Saturday, I spent part of the afternoon wandering through Boston’s Earth Fest on the esplanade and was harshly reminded of who the mass audiences are. I guarantee the people I saw there have been the target of at least a few of my clients over the years. And this isn’t me being a snob, or passing judgement on anyone (except maybe people in the advertising world), but the truth is (and backed up by the chart above) that most people are not nearly as tech savvy as advertisers would like to believe they are.
What I saw was people outside, listening to music, sampling eco-friendly food and products, hanging out with their friends, enjoying the nice weather.
What I didn’t see was people with their hands and faces glued to mobile devices. I didn’t see anyone carrying around an iPad. The only tablets I saw were being used by the vendors to collect names/emails, or process contest entries. I saw a Samsung Galaxy Note tent, but didn’t see a lot of people lined up to play with a new tablet. Not nearly as many as I saw lined up for a taste of sweet potato tater tots.
Facebook may have 900 million users, Instagram may be worth one billion dollars, but when it gets down to real people, living their daily lives, they aren’t checking in constantly. They aren’t posting everything the moment it happens. They aren’t showing the world every single piece of food they consume.
One of my favorite bloggers/planners, Martin Wiegel, once posted a series of “bold statements” (as I called them) including one that said “It’s still mostly a 1.0 world.” Looking around the masses who attended Earth Fest with me yesterday, I couldn’t help but agree. These are the mass consumer, yet they are not constantly looking for the next big thing. They aren’t seeking to find the coolest things ever and share them with their friends before anyone else does. That’s a very small subset of the much larger audience.
I recently took part in a two-day workshop with clients from a regional bank in New England. They position themselves as being all about service, about going above and beyond in the name of the customer. After two days of constantly referencing Zappos, the COO turned to me and said “What does Zappos sell?”
You’d think we had been talking about Fab.com or some obscure niche site, not the largest online footwear retailer ever. Not the darling of every business school, business magazine, and online shopper. Not a company that had been acquired for almost one billion dollars just a few years before. And yet, he had never heard of it.
Since Cracked, Mashable, and BuzzFeed have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that everyone loves to
consume read lists (only marketing targets “consume” media, real people read/watch/listen/play with stuff), I’ll use that format for my recommendations:
- Spend time people. As any planner worth his salt will tell you, you need to get out and be around people. You will never learn anything truly unique or powerful by only reading trend reports or looking at what people say on Twitter (note the use of “only” – I’m not saying reports, research, and social media aren’t useful).
- Keep it simple. The KISS rule has been around for ages and the more advanced our means of communication get the more relevant the message gets.
- Remember the Pareto Principle. Often called the “80-20″ rule, this means that for any behavior, whether it’s sales, content creation/consumption, etc 80% of it comes from 20% of the people. Most of your consumers are not going to make a video telling the world why they love your product. No matter what the prize is.
- Be aware of mass media. I’m not saying you need to watch Real Housewives of Whatever, or American Idol. But you better know what it is. Because most of your consumers do. And most of them care a hell of a lot more about it than a really interesting SlideShare presentation you saw, or the latest TED talk. I hate reality TV, but if you want to talk to consumers you need to be able to tall about the things that matter to them.
- Avoid snobbery. I’m one of the last people who should talk about this, I tend to look down on the “unwashed masses” with my most critical eye, but you really need to avoid it. They may not appreciate the “finer things” that you think you do, but these are the masses. They are the reason we all have jobs. They might prefer watching a baseball game to spending an afternoon at a museum, or watching Real Housewives instead of Downton Abbey, but they pay your salary.