AllThingsD has an interesting little story about some recent Forrester research on internet usage. The gist is that Forrester asked people how much time they spend online and the number went down from 2011 instead of up. This would be shocking if it were true, but it’s not, and presents an interesting case of the problem with self-reporting in research. The article sums it up like this:
“Despite the fact that they always have connected devices and are always online, they don’t really realize they’re online,” said Forrester analyst Gina Sverdlov. “They’re using Google Maps or checking in on Facebook, but that’s not considered online because it has become such a part of everyday life.”
It’s actually amazing to me we don’t spend more time talking about the issues with self-reporting because this stuff happens all the time. People classically overreport the good things about themselves and underreport the bad stuff (if you compared the number of New Yorkers who say they read the times with the traffic/newspaper sales something doesn’t add up). On top of that, though, we ask seemingly innocuous questions that actually turn out to be confusing for regular folks (I don’t know how I’d answer how much time I spend “using” the internet either).
There is something important here as the web continues to shift to an ambient medium that is just tied into our lives. I think for those of us that have been living online for awhile now it’s no surprise, but it’s interesting to see others catching up to that way of thinking.
I’ve been taking some time over the Thanksgiving break to catch up on my Instapaper queue, so I’ll probably be posting links to some older articles over the next few days. The first comes from a SocialFlow blog post about how the Osama Bin Laden death news spread across Twitter. While the particulars are interesting, I especially liked the points they made about how impossible it would have been to predict the players actually responsible for spreading the message. The post explain, “Before May 1st, not even the smartest of machine learning algorithms could have predicted Keith Urbahn’s online relevancy score, or his potential to spark an incredibly viral information flow.”
They then conclude with a deeper message for how we think about social influence that I completely agree with:
As we build out digital social spaces, we must not get derailed by metrics of status affordances that have taken center stage. Just because we have easily accessible data at our fingertips doesn’t mean that we have the capacity to model and place a value tag on human behavior. Followers, friends or likes represent an aspect of our digital status, but are only a partial representation of our general propensity to be influential. Keith Urbahn wasn’t the first to speculate Bin Laden’s death, but he was the one who gained the most trust from the network. And with that, the perfect situation unfolded, where timing, the right social-professional networked audience, along with a critically relevant piece of information led to an explosion of public affirmation of his trustworthiness.
Shiv Singh, head of digital at Pepsi, makes some points I agree with (and a few I don’t) in his thoughts about the future relationship between TV and the web. One I’m with him on is this: “When TV ads become teasers for digital experiences, the ROI on the investment will improve significantly as the digital experience will stretch out the brand experiences beyond the 30 second clip.. The ROI won’t be measured by the impact that the TV ad has when it’s aired but also by its residual influence on engagement in other mediums in the weeks that follow the airing.” I think this is going to spell a big change for the agency landscape and spell the first real opportunity for digital shops to bite off a larger piece of the advertising pie.
Also reminds me of something one of my favorite internet thinkers, Duncan Watts, wrote a few years ago about how brands could use “viral”:
Imagine, for example, that an advertising firm makes a standard ad buy on the Web, or directs TV viewers to a Web site, or uses an e-mail list to contact potential consumers directly. Regardless of the method used, the campaign will yield some large number, N, of conversions—people who are sufficiently interested to click on the Web ad or embedded link. Traditionally, that’s all it would be expected to achieve, but imagine now that these N viewers can also share the ad easily with anyone else. In other words, what would previously have been the entire audience for the message also becomes the big seed for a viral campaign in which the newly added people can forward the message to their friends, who may forward it to their friends in turn, and so on.
Thought Watts is a lot more academic, the point is the same and the science is simple: If you have a big enough seed, your odds of seeing something catch fire is higher.
I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen:
In a Tuesday ruling, a federal judge in San Francisco refused to dismiss news site PhoneDog’s complaint which argued that a Twitter password and the identity of followers was a trade secret. PhoneDog claims that its former journalist, Noah Kravitz, failed to surrender the password to a Twitter account that was originally tied to the handle @phonedog_noah. Instead, says PhoneDog, he simply changed the name of the account to @noahkravitz and kept sending messages to the thousands of followers he had acquired while employed at the site.
I suspect we will see more and more of these disputes moving forward as we all deal with the rather blurry lines between our working and non-working selves. I’ve spoken to some folks at media companies who are becoming increasingly picky about how employees use social media and the connections there to their professional persona. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years.