Real people’s identities are currently scattered across services, sites and functions on the internet. As new tools, trends and fads have developed, so have the multitude of places where elements of our identity can be accessed. We have become the comments we have made, the transactions we have completed, and the user accounts we have collected or even forgotten that we had. As UnHub, a consumer service inspired by the Skittles campaign, puts it: You are Everywhere.
This fragmented reality does not mean we should all boldly delete our brand- or comms-led websites and march off to join the latest platform: a Facebook presence does not equal “getting it”.
Lets face it, marketers love Facebook. People just use it.
Social Networking is invisible as a concept. It is a pervasive tool. Just like there is no “new media” anymore, Social Networking or “Earned Media” shouldn’t be seen as a distinct category. It is just interactive but it is people’s space. The recent redesign of Facebook alone proves that people feel they own it and that things in their space should not be interfered with.
What this fragmentation means is that we need to increasingly focus our thinking on how real people are connected – with each other and their own, different online identities – and what they are doing. In fact we need to consider not just pure digital connections but connections via social objects that are increasingly digitally enabled. This is especially true of younger people. They are more connected than any of us and point a way to how future behaviour will change for the majority/mainstream.
Young people’s behaviour in a digitally enabled world is proof of the outmoded nature of the old “six degrees of separation” cliché. One of the best recent illustrations of the complex, non-linear connectivity of real people is the SharedEgg data visualisation.
“SharedEgg is a diagram of subcultures based on data collected from the people who make up those cultures. People categorize themselves using their objects and through their categorization are linked to the other people participating in the project. What has resulted is a deeply complex image showing social trends and unknown bonds between people through those trends.”
While SharedEgg has revealed an ever increasing number of “unknown bonds” created by shared activities, points of reference, trends and communication tools, two questions remain: (1) what are people doing to create these bonds; and (2) how can we as creative communicators get involved when these bonds are stronger and more complex that any linear traditional campaign?
The Digital Youth Project (University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley) provides a good insight to the “What are they doing” question.
“The digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression. These activities have captured teens’ attention because they provide avenues for extending social worlds, self-directed learning, and independence.”
Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project
The project reveals a Maslow hierarchy of needs for the digital age.
At its most basic the internet is being used to uplift mood and give people something (and a somehow) to talk about. It is about social oxygen. However, as we get higher up the hierarchy the level of engagement and the level of “digital proficiency” increases. People start making themselves and things.
What can we, as marketers and creatives, do in response to this reality?
Traditionally there are two worlds of thought about interactive creative, two almost polarized camps: those who believe that the answers are Communication & Content, and those who believe the answers are Utility & Context.
But the reality is not black or white, it falls between the two camps. The reality is work that aims to be “good enough to share“.
This is part of “The Changing Nature of Interactive Creative” whitepaper.