Message in a megabyte; lost in a sea of social networking

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In the 1990s, there was a famous anti-drug use PSA which opened with the juxtaposition “This is your brain,” and, “This is your brain on drugs.” As times have changed, I soon see another anti-addiction PSA opening with “This is your brain…This is your brain on technology.” Steve Rubel recently blogged about an Experian study that revealed “43% of online Americans [are] addicted to social networking.” Just this morning, Good Morning America followed up on a New York Times article which exposed an entire family addicted to computers, video games and cell phones. Brian recently posted about how to get retweeted, highlighting not only the importance of being online, but also spreading your online message both far and wide.

At EZG, we often tell clients that, much like traditional media exposure, social media success is based on reaching the right audience. If your audience is online, you should be online—but simply being online is not enough. You have to be online and know what it will take to capture your audience.  A question that is often overlooked when assessing your audience is “Why are you online?” Experian asked that question, and revealed the following numbers:

According to their research, the top three reasons people use social networking is to stay in touch with friends, to have fun, and to keep in touch with family. Only 29% are looking for information that is relevant to them; 25% are looking for recommendations. This may explain why some brands, online and off, are turning to entertainment, also known as conversation starters, rather than showcasing their products features and benefits.

If Experian’s research is correct, that means that for every Coors Light fan that signs onto Facebook and searches “Coors Light,” most will likely stay on their Facebook long enough to play with the apps, maybe send something to a friend and only one of four will stay there long enough to see if there are any recommendations for the beer. Does that “reach” your target audience? It all depends on what your goals are for your brand and audience.

Much like print ads in a magazine, the online world is fighting every nanosecond for your attention. There are billions of blogs, Twitter,YouTubeFacebookflickrslideshare, even what some may call a dying MySpace. You can publish, share, discuss, network, microblog, livecast, broadcast, game, download, upload, and even create a virtual world. iPhone users alone can talk, type, tap, listen and see anything their heart desires at the tip of their fingers. With all these options, it’s easy for companies to flock to the largest social media sites and “set up shop” so to speak. Yet without answering why your customers or audience are online, and what your goals are for a social media campaign, your message is bound to be lost.

So the tools have changed but the song remains the same: right message, right audience, right result.

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One Response to “Message in a megabyte; lost in a sea of social networking”

  1. Brian Keaney Says:

    The idea of a PSA showing “this is your brain on technology” isn’t so far fetched. There was a spurt of press last month about how technology really is rewiring our brains, and the Globe even ran a story titled “The Internet ate my brain.”

    The scariest line of all from it perhaps was that “The Internet works on our brains in such a way that we are in danger of losing our capacity for deep, sustained reading and thought — along with all the cognitive benefits. The Gutenberg mind is morphing into the Google mind.” At a time when our economy is increasingly dependent upon workers all being able to think for a living, this is certainly cause for concern.

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