If I could have seen these trends ten years ago, I would be a rich woman today. These are some of the trends that triggered my interest in A Bigger Voice and the related questions I'm exploring:
• User-generated content has never been easier to produce and distribute. Fifty years ago, the common person could find a bigger voice by writing a letter to the local newspaper editor. Twenty years ago, making a submission to America’s Funniest Home Videos got you a larger audience, for a few minutes. Now, with YouTube, Facebook and blogs, and the affordable price of technology, anyone, even kids, can create content and find a platform to publish on, for free. That’s the good news and the bad news. User-generated content can “go viral” and can be seen by more people than the audience for the national nightly news. And the market is getting more crowded every day. As of March 2007, it was estimated that 120,000 new blogs are created every day or 1.4 new blogs every second of every day. According to Jeremiah Owyang, Facebook has 60 million active users and active users are doubling every 6 months. MySpace has an average of 300,000 new signups every day. 1 in 4 Americans is on MySpace. In July 2006, YouTube hit 100 million views per day. From 2005 to 1006, the number of podcasts on iTunes increased more than 10 fold, from 8,000 to nearly 83,000.
How can you make the most of these new technologies and what can make your remarkable wisdom go viral?
• The “digital native” population, individuals who grew up with video games, laptops, and the Internet as the norm, continues to grow. The way they get their information, connect with others, and explore new topics is different from “digital immigrants.” Digital natives are comfortable multi-tasking—listening to their iPod, while texting on their cell phone, messaging on their laptop. They naturally look online for information and are used to learning with random access points, just like the video games they play. Digital immigrants are used to getting their knowledge from traditional media (books, magazines, newspapers, television), may have a preference for in-person interaction, and are used to learning in a sequential fashion. Fortunately, as the technology matures and usability increases, it will be easier for digital immigrants to connect with the digital native’s preferred means of communication. For example, blogs have become easier to use. And as the general population ages, it will be important for digital immigrants to bridge to the digital native’s world, rather than vice versa.
Who do you want to share your remarkable wisdom with and how are your own preferences influencing how you reach out?
• Individuals are hungry for the cohesiveness and comfort of community. As our relationships become more virtual and we become fragmented in our attention and how we spend time (e.g., multi-tasking), communities provide us with a sense of belonging, identity, and connection. The growth of social networking sites, specific to our interests, points to this hunger. There are social networking sites for professional models, physicians, people going through a divorce, wine connoisseurs, and international travelers. There are Facebook groups drawing people together who share common identities and passions—from career pioneers doing more than one thing for their vocation (called “slashes”) to employees working for a specific company to fans following a new band. The more you contribute, the more recognition you receive, the stronger the connection to others, the greater the identity as member.
Starbuck’s fosters in-person communities by encouraging customers to stay-- working on their laptop, relaxing with a board game, listening to the latest song from an up and coming band, or meeting clients, colleagues, or friends. Customers become regulars, part of the landscape.
How can you build a community around your remarkable wisdom?
• Niche markets are increasingly specialized (e.g., The Long Tail). Search engines, e-Bay, and other services enable buyers to find exactly what they want, across geographical and demographic markets. Want to find people who love to spot vintage commercial airplanes, still in service around the world or large yachts coming into port at an exotic locale? Interested in swapping recipes that are perfect for cooking for two? Are you an activist for eliminating childhood obesity? Have a passion for collecting mechanical musical instruments? These are niche markets that are being served by entrepreneurs, aficionados, and even the company that owns Reader’s Digest.
How can you effectively market to your specific audience?
• Customers expect a relationship, built over time. Getting noticed once is not enough. Gone are the days when getting a commercial on network television or having a book on the best seller list was enough to sustain increased sales. Individuals want a relationship, where they know who you are and what you think. They want the back story and the inside scoop. Attention is going to those who treat us with respect and are transparent. They want a dialogue, a conversation and in return, you will get not only their attention but also their engagement. See Seth Godin's blog for a running commentary on this trend. Godin popularized the phrase, Permission Marketing,
How do you create a sustainable conversation with your audience?
Opportunity is knocking all the time. A Bigger Voice is about taking that opportunity and making the most of it.