In July we’re holding our first conference at Percolate. It’s going to be called Transition and it’s meant to explore how the world, and specifically marketers, are dealing with the massive transition to software and systems. I touched on what this means for marketers in a blog post last week:
For marketers this means two things: First, as a core function of the business and owner of the message, this explosion in communications technology falls squarely in their wheelhouse and gives them new opportunities to prove their value to the organization. Secondly, to achieve this, marketers will need to rethink the way they operate as the core channels (local to global), audiences (millions to billions), and content (stock to stock & flow) they once worked through shifts under their feet.
Marketing is in transition. But what happened? How did it happen?
Phase 1: 1989 – 2004
The shift started 25 years ago with Tim Berners-Lee and the founding of the World Wide Web. For the first time people and organizations were able to connect directly with each other. Marketers went out and built websites, email marketing lists, and (in)famously, banner ads to reach these customers.
A bevy of new companies emerged to help marketers deal with the various needs that surfaced in this period: Omniture for analytics; DoubleClick for serving banners; and, of course, Google for organizing the web and helping marketers reach the people searching it.
While the total number of Internet users grew by more than 30x during this period, 2004’s mark of 910 million users still only accounted for 14% of the world’s population.
Phase 2: 2004 – 2014
Ten years ago social built a layer on top of the web. Led most famously by Facebook, this layer provided a graph of relationships and interests that started to map the planet. Social presented a different set of challenges to marketers. Instead of just thinking about pushing messages, social created a participation architecture on the web that caused the enterprise to think about moving their service infrastructure into a digital environment.
As smartphone sales began to accelerate a few years ago, usage and engagement numbers in social skyrocketed. The growth of those companies followed suit. Facebook became only the second platform in history to pass 1 billion active users, joining the Fortune 500 in 2013. Today, across the Internet, there are nearly 3 billion total users, covering roughly 40% of the world’s population.
Phase 3: 2014 – 2019
That leaves us at today: The third phase. What started just over five years ago, with the introduction of the iPhone, has become a revolution that changed nearly every facet of communication for both individuals and enterprises. While it took us over 20 years to reach 3 billion Internet users, it’s predicted we’ll double that number in just the next five.
In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan theorized on the effects of the “global village,” a place where “everybody gets the message all the time.” In just five years that world will be a reality. For all the questions people may have about valuations of these new-media companies, what we do know is that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rises by 0.5%. It’s hard to overstate the realities and excitement of nearly 100% of the planet being connected on the same network.