When I started out as an entrepreneur in 2003, starting up a web development agency with some friends, Facebook did not exist.
We happily survived off email and phone calls, building our business for four years out of our bedrooms and into our first grown up office before I ever felt the need to remind myself who I had been to school with.
This next sentence is going to make me sound old but... that was only nine years ago!!
How mind boggling crazy is that? Next time you look at a nine year old little person, remember that their short little life basically represents the entire era of mass “social media” and yet most of us have to think real hard to remember what it was like before.
It doesn’t get any better I’m afraid. I know I was slow to join the Twitter party, I’ve always preferred long form and have been poked at over the years for writing stupidly long emails. Cutting down to 140 characters was a conformance that I was not comfortable with, I think my reluctance came across in my #FirstTweet in June of 2009.
I am reluctantly keeping up with new technology and services, feel like such a sheep!— Ross Coombes (@rosscoombes) June 13, 2009
On this day, 13th June 2009, LinkedIn was already established as the social media for business but Instagram didn’t yet exist, neither did Pinterest. Facebook had now been running for five years officially but it was only later in 2009 that we were able to target users based on their profile data. At this time, most of our clients were still using email newsletters whilst desperately fighting for Google’s organic listing approval and pondering whether they should make ‘an app for that’.
And here it is again… this was only 6 years ago.
Fast forward three more years to 2012, the Olympics had arrived in London along with Uber, contactless payments were starting to become the norm and behind the scenes batteries had been given a shift forward. Whilst these three technologies are not directly social media, they represented major shifts in user behaviour and enablers of the mobile takeover. And for the next three years, the mobile space expanded until eventually, in 2014, mobile overtook desktop.
I’ll say it one last time, this was only two years ago. That’s not that long, a lot of businesses have been marketing themselves in exactly the same way for two years yet the world around us dramatically changes. They’re still doing email campaigns in isolation, they’re still only looking at Facebook and Twitter, they’re still worrying too much about meta descriptions.
Let’s have a think for a moment about what wasn’t real in your world two years ago.
- I wasn’t on Snapchat
- I couldn’t name more than a handful of people that had a Fitbit
- I’d never had a VR experience
- I had never seen a drone in real life
- I had never witnessed kids and adults alike travelling around their town in the hunt for Pokemon
Obviously there is an argument for how much time you should allocate to upcoming trends and technologies depending on the age demographic of your target audience. If you’re marketing to young people, given how quickly they adopt you have zero excuse for not allocating some time every week to knowing what’s going on.
Equally, if you’re targeting to an older demographic, don’t fool yourself that this stuff is not applicable to your customers. I was sat in a meeting recently where someone said:
“They’re an older demographic, they’re not interested in VR”.
They were right, VR is not a particular interest to the average 55+ couple but that’s just all the more reason why it would blow their friggin’ minds. Give them a memorable experience that they’ll get value from and not only will you be providing good customer service but you might have just provided them with something to get excited to tell their 30 year old daughter about when she calls on Sunday. That stuff is real, its human and it powers the most effective marketing of all - word of mouth. There’s an excitable kid in all of us, bring it out and you’ll have his or her undivided attention.
But the truth is when these technologies come out and announce themselves to the world, most business don’t capitalise on it. We’re in business but yet we ignore business opportunity in favour for the safe, the proven, the very things that we know has nobody’s attention.
Albert Einstein described insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. He’s right but there’s a hidden assumption here that all other factors remain constant. This is marketing and it’s anything but constant. Marketing is about communicating your message to your room full of people but if that room is slowly emptying, eventually you’ll be talking to yourself... and that’s a sign of insanity too.