Challenging Creatures of Habit

originally posted on Concept Hub

We are at an interesting point in history right now.

Throughout the ages, there have been many times where people had a right to say that it was the most interesting time to be alive. We can look at just the past 100 years and see how much has changed in our quality of lives, role expectations, and deeper understanding, awareness,  and acceptance of people that have different world views than ourselves.

Throughout the ages, what has always accelerated these evolutionary changes have been innovations that connect people from around the world. Changes that enable ongoing communication through various channels that are able to reach various people.

Each innovation has been more awe-inspiring and earth moving than the past. From the ability to travel across vast distances of land to the ability to cross the oceans, to the ability to communicate in real time around the world and the ability to broadcast to the world.

But, we are at an interesting point in history right now.

At no point in history have we been able to develop and distribute new technologies as fast and easy as we do today. At no point in history have we had so many different communication channels to choose from. At no point in history have we been so challenged by the ease to communicate and the dispersion of the relevant conversations.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in a room with a gentleman older than me and a woman younger than me. The gentleman held onto his blackberry constantly. He would be your typical audience for mobile communications. I still have a phone that looks like a child’s toy, I have not yet gone mobile. The woman younger than me was trying to grasp the ideas of social media. She wanted to be able to receive all updates in her email. With the exception of direct communication, all other emails I receive are often ignored. In this room with three people, there were three dominant modes of communication. I am best reached through social media channels such as articles posted by friends and links I find in Wikipedia or in Delicious and reviews I read. The older gentleman is best reached through mobile alerts he has subscribed to and the younger woman is still best reached through email and even print mail.

This is the new challenge we face as communicators. We can no longer look at demographics such as age, gender, race, or income to decide how to best structure our communication channels. We need to focus on communicating through the various communication channels to reach the most relevant audience based on behavior.

This past week I was in a room with a well-known radio personality. He was discussing the challenges faced by the media industry today and had some very valid points that the cause of the current problems were tied to the big corporations controlling all the stations. He pointed out that this massive control did not empower stations to be tailored to their community. At the same time, when asked about people turning toward more tailored content on the web through social media channels, he seemed to not feel that social media was a threat to radio.

A couple of days prior to that meeting I heard some advice from a very intelligent and successful man who suggested that to assume people are stupid just because they do not see things the way you see them is like putting a nail in your own coffin. I retorted that it is not about thinking they are stupid, it is about getting them out of their comfort zones. This gentleman’s comfort zone, in fact, his entire life, revolved around radio. His lack of experience with social media did not make him stupid, nor did it make him irrelevant, it just confined him to one communication channel that had a limited reach.

Currently, I am reading groundswell. It is a good book, one I would recommend. Howe, er there is one section that I am at variance with, which is their social technographics profile. In the past three years that I have been in business I have seen people go from asking what a blog is to being an expert in social media. I have recently connected with a 70 year old relative on Facebook. In a recent Market Intelligence Report I developed about the blogosphere in GA, I have noticed a tremendous shift in the quantity, quality, and topics of blogs being maintained.

We are at an interesting point in history right now.

People are no longer easily categorized by their age, gender, race, or income, but by their habits. We are all creatures of habits. Some people have habits of staying in their comfort zones, others have habits of embracing the latest trend and technology.

Every organization is trying to learn how to get a handle on the most effective communications for this new day and age.

In the past we turned to the experts on demographic statistics and trends. These statistics and trends were the basis of the road maps  that led us to reach our target audience. As creatures of habits, we expect these “demographic” roadmaps to lead us to our destination. But who uses road maps anymore? In fact road maps may lead you wrong in a world where the roads are always changing.

We are at an interesting point in history right now.

We can no longer use the same insights of demographics to create the right road maps. Today we have to have perspectives that are open enough to recognize the opportunities in a rapidly changing world and a strategy that is agile enough to respond to these ongoing changes.