The US government is collecting the answer to 10 census questions in 2010. Once answered, the data will be collected, sliced, diced, and analyzed to determine any mass population changes.
Businesses can learn from the US census, because it’s important to step back and consider where we came from in order to determine where we must go. And so, that got me to thinking. What if we performed our own census–from a business communications perspective? What if we studied the differences between how our customers got their business information in 2000 and how they get it now? What if we offered a New Media Census?
In 2000, our customers went to the Yellow Pages to find a local business. They read newspapers, trade magazines, and in some cases, they even read direct mail. “On demand” movies came from one of two places: the cinema or the video rental store. And if our customers wanted to time-shift their television content, they needed either a degree in computer science or a middle-schooler to program their VCR.
In 2000, our customers didn’t have smartphones, therefore couldn’t read email, connect to the Web, or run apps while away from the office. They didn’t have iTunes to manage their music collections or to help them listen to our company’s audio and video podcasts. YouTube hadn’t been invented yet, so the only way they had access to our demonstration videos was to request a DVD.
They had no access to communities, such as LinkedIn for business professionals, or a Facebook fan page for “business casual.” If a customer wanted independent reviews of local businesses, they created a poll at the office water cooler. Today, they go to Yelp. And the only way for customers in the year 2000 to get “real-time” information was to have CNN running in the background. Today, Twitter seems to have taken that spot.
In just ten years, it’s clear that our customers are migrating from physical media to a plethora of other online choices.
Unfortunately, most marketing and public relations professionals are still stuck in 2000. Most believe that the only way to deliver corporate messages is through advertising, staffing trade show booths, building micro sites or pummeling an ever-dwindling number of journalists with press releases.
Does your company understand the mass migratory patterns of its customers? If not, consider tapping your social network for a job, because your company probably won’t be around for the 2020 census.
Photo credit: Library of Congress on Flickr