The Internet Transcending, yet also Reflecting, Offline Behavior
There are two obvious trends in the Internet: it will become ever more ubiquitous and exist beyond a computer (Mobile Phones to PS3s). We will always be online, we will always be connected – be it IM, the web, MMS, email or whatever new communication technologies await us.
Bearing that in mind, pr/marketers must shift their attention and remind themselves that as Social Media develops and matures to a wider audience, the audience online will mirror (and interact and merge with) the behavior of offline audiences.
So when MySpace declines in popularity as others rise, its not a sign that the audience is finicky, its the simple fact of “Who likes to hang out in the same place all the time?”
When Google’s Eric Schmidt discusses “blogging phenomenon and social networking sites like MySpace in America, Bebo in Britain, Orkut in Brazil, CyWorld in Korea and Mixi in Japan”, the geospecific demographics (specifically in the case of Bebo and Orkut) partially reflects the real-life where districts, nightclubs and neighborhood may have narrowly diverse demographics.
While the Internet maybe global and break many social barriers that exist offline, offline behavior can and will be reflected online in many situations.
Avinash Kaushik recently blogged about this experience at the e-Consultancy Online Marketing Masterclass, specfically regarding David Hughes presentation titled “Retain and Grow: Getting Close and Staying Close” (see the slide above, originally here).
Modified by Avinash, the different colored arrows illustrate different paths a person may take. The slide illustrates that in addition to people behaving similarly online as they do offline, people move fluidly back and forth from online and offline media seamlessly.
When looking for information – from general interest to researching a future purchase – people will not discriminate between channels. They will pursue whatever route is most convenient to them.
Conclusions: Remembering the Human Factor and Challenges Ahead
In Nick Carr’s “Is Web 2.0 the wrong path?“, Nick wonders aloud if “Web 2.0″ is more about the designers and programmers running wild with AJAX rather than improving the users experience. Similarly in marketing – we should understand not just what we want to track, what is trackable – but also keeping the “Non-Linear Marketing” model in mind understand that there are far greater actions occuring in the marketing campaign beyond clickstream data and web analytics KPIs.
What will be frustrating to marketers is that these paths will not be trackable. Online Market has been a godsend for marketers: it is trackable, optimizable, auditable and accountable. The raise of Online PR (in the its various forms as Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing and UGC) has already proven frustrating to Online Marketers used to readily available clickstream data. “Non-Linear” Marketing will prove even more so challenging.