Vr3: Reputation, Relationships, Results

New media? New brains

I am confounded by the inundation of media in our society. Recently I stood at a Chipotle and watched seven out of ten fellow Burrito-lovers whittle away the five minutes in line fiddling with their cell phones. As one of the three not on a cell phone, I spent my time contemplating our absolute inability to just be (and counting the other people in line). To simply be in a line (or cab, elevator, doctor’s office, whatever) doing nothing for three measly minutes. But, perhaps more relevant and approachable a topic than the sustainability of the attention span of the human race, what does the conflagration of media stimuli mean for the way in which we connect with our consumers?  We’re all wired, and if our companies aren’t, they may soon find themselves shut out.

Technology has hastened the death of boredom. Nowhere is that more evident than in youth data usage statistics (and in line at a Chipotle). Adolescents will, in 2010, spend more than seven and a half hours a day with some sort of electronic device in front of their faces (side note: they’ll also send more than 3,000 texts a month, which still has me reeling…and wondering what the heck anyone could have to say in 3,000 texts). Knowing that much of this online time is spent switching between medias (multiple screens, checking a cell phone while reading the news online and simultaneously updating social media pages, etc.), scientists predict that all this media is actually changing the way in which brains are wired.

Take a look at PR blogs or other industry papers and it’s easy to see that we’re constantly confronting the issue of trying to fit our old way of doing business into the newer online model. Instances abound of start-up social media campaigns in which one area of the company has a vested interest and the rest are unaware of the campaign’s existence. Different areas of the company push out varying messages resulting in brand inconsistency. Just because it’s valiant and well-intentioned does not mean it is going to be a hit. Or even get you a hit, for that matter.

Reaching consumers in an era in which they constantly toggle between virtual and real-life worlds requires more than slapping on a new coat of paint and hoping to pass it off as brand-new. It requires us to literally reexamine the ways in which we (ourselves and our business models) are wired.  Social media and online campaigns can no longer be seen as adjunct, but rather must be viewed as the direct route to engagement.

Becoming a player in a digital world isn’t difficult; it’s everywhere you look. All it takes is a little effort and some know-how. Next time you find yourself with three minutes of downtime in a public setting, look around. Media is everywhere. Time to join the race.

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