BrainTrust Query: Going Unplugged for 24 Hours

May 06, 2010

Commentary by Mark Johnson,
President and CEO, Loyalty 360

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary
of a current article from the Loyalty 360 blog.

Two hundred University of Maryland students from a variety of majors were
given what seemed to be a fairly simple challenge: abstain from social media
for 24 hours.

Abstaining from social media meant no iPhone … no text messaging … no
laptops … no netbooks … no tweeting … no email … and no
Facebook.  This return to simplicity was like taking these student fishes out
of their interconnected waters.

The study, “24 Hours: Unplugged,” was conducted by the University’s
International Center for Media & the Public Agenda in February/March, 2010.

students blogged about their trials and tribulations of being unplugged for
a day (yes, one day!) — even though most failed to make it through an entire
24-hour span without giving in to the lure of social media. Posts such as,
“I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening” or, “I felt
like a person on a deserted island … I noticed, physically, that I began
to fidget, as if I was addicted to my iPod and other media devices, and maybe
I am,” were
the norm.

The study found that these students cared about what was going on among their
friends, families, communities and the world at large. Yet, most of all, they
cared about being cut off from that instantaneous flow of information — no
matter where they get that information. Information, they discovered, was a
precious commodity, one that they used to define themselves in comparison
to their peers. One student said he realized that he suddenly had “less information” than
“everyone else,” regardless of whether that information involved
“news, class information, scores, or what happened on Family Guy.”

According to the study results, students also made it clear that socializing
and the flow of information were inextricably intertwined. For example, when
the earthquake in Chile struck, most students didn’t learn about it from
newspapers or the evening news. They found out about it first through contacts
on social networks sites, and that information propelled them to visit mainstream
news sites. “People who do not use media as frequently as our society does
are probably missing out on important news and social interaction,” the
student wrote.

For marketers, the implication of these findings is straightforward: social
media is the most effective way to reach this key demographic. And while this
is not a revelation, what’s eye opening is the students’ need for
connectivity and the constant access to information. Delivering information
— versus marketing messages — is the key to engaging these students.

Discussion Question: What lessons can be learned
from the 24 Hours: Unplugged study? Have you seen marketers that are using social
media messaging effectively for this totally-interconnected demographic?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Going Unplugged for 24 Hours"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Anne Howe
11 years 8 days ago

In just a few short years, we’ve all been trained (or trained ourselves) to have instant access to information and to have instant reactions as well. While this makes us more “full,” I’m not sure it gives us time to contemplate anything and develop a more thoughtful point of view of much of anything.

I hope the Maryland study uncovered at least a few students who actually took the time to think over the inputs they already had in their brains instead of just [giving in to] the almost addictive need for more. Maybe someone even had a good idea about something?

While I do agree the never ending mashup of socially delivered content will impact marketing in a big way, I can’t help but wonder what happens when we just don’t ever slow down and ponder anything. What will imagination produce in the way of innovation if all we do is uptake like a nation of junkies?

Max Goldberg
11 years 8 days ago

As anyone who has a teenager or young adult in the house, being connected to the flow of social information is of paramount importance. Being cut off from the flow means that you are out of the loop, and being out of the loop makes you less relevant to your peers. As a result, they are wired into their social network as many hours of the day as possible.

What are marketers to make of this? Provide valuable information and be open to engaging in a dialogue with consumers; do not push information to them or try to direct the conversation. We encourage our clients to be available to consumers and, most importantly to listen to what they are saying. By answering questions, responding to concerns and providing information, brands can build a trusted social relationship with consumers. Many marketers find this hard to grasp. They are used to pushing messages to consumers. There is a role for message advertising, but not necessarily in social media.

Ben Sprecher
Ben Sprecher
11 years 8 days ago
I see the comment about how students learned about the earthquake as being especially relevant. The news spread peer-to-peer through social networks, but the effect was that it drove people to seek out traditional media sources for more detailed information. I visualize this sudden convergence as something like what happens when a scattered group of birds suddenly starts moving as a flock. Here at RetailWire, we often discuss the marketing challenges presented by media fragmentation, but in some ways, social media allows for a new type of media consolidation. If something interesting or catalyzing occurs, social media actually accelerates the uptake of information about that event, so there can be an enormous spike of short-lived attention directed to a particular media source. So, as marketers, our goals today should be very different. The challenge used to be, how do we make sure we plaster the right media outlets to hit enough of the right eyeballs with our message? The challenge today is, how do we create the “interest spike” (and how do you convert that… Read more »
Marge Laney
11 years 8 days ago

The appeal of social media is much farther reaching than the twenty-something demographic. My husband has stopped calling out informative tidbits from his daily perusal of our local newspaper as we gear up for the day since my usual reply is, “Yeah, I heard about that two days ago.” Is it any wonder that newspapers are dying? I find the constant barrage of information and conversation exhilarating, interesting, and thought provoking, albeit overwhelming at times. Before social media, the barriers to information were well guarded by the mainstream media.

Yes, there is a lot of junk out there that needs to be sifted through, but that’s part of what makes it interesting. And hasn’t it always been our personal responsibility to vet any information we consume? Social media has given voice to many and taken the power of information brokering away from the few and I think that’s great.

Gene Detroyer
11 years 8 days ago
There are several highlights in this discussion. The first one is that social media is serious business for those who use it. And, as serious business it becomes a more difficult challenge for marketers. No matter the use of the social media, as a very serious part of one’s life, marketing (advertising) becomes more intrusive. As it becomes more intrusive and unwanted, the deliverer of the message risks that the message will carry a negative halo. Social media is also self controlled. On a very basic level, who with DVR watches any commercials? Consider what would happen if individuals had the ability to eliminate advertising all together. But beyond any considerations for advertising or marketing, the most serious implication of social media is the article’s reference to the Chilean earthquake. As the student notes, “People who do not use media as frequently as our society does are probably missing out on important news and social interaction.” While those of an older generation may view social media as a toy, fad or distraction, the Millenniums will… Read more »
W. Frank Dell II
11 years 8 days ago

It was not too long ago the question was, “Can the family live without television for a day?” Maybe could they even talk to each other or read a book?

Yes, many people are addicted to rapid communication, but few are asking if the information being communicated is even worth reading.

One issue not being addressed in the social media world is the accuracy of the information. No one is fact-checking or using two sources before sending out a message. How much of what people read is fiction? This is the issue for marketers to overcome. Building trust, which advertising lost years ago, can happen again with social media.

Bernice Hurst
11 years 8 days ago

Try turning the argument around for a minute. Social media is anti-social. People do not interact with their surroundings, human or otherwise. They get their information through the filter of whoever sends it to them. What information do they get, and from where, by their own initiative? What does it take for people to be pro-active rather than reactive? Do they even know what it means and how to do it? Well done all those marketers who manage to disseminate information that recipients want, need and accept. Pity those who have failed to achieve that holy grail. And, further, pity those who attempt to maintain some degree of independent thought in their lives.

Bearing all that in mind, and assuming I am not the only Luddite Devil’s Advocate on this site, perhaps we should think about ways that social media can be used to improve social contact and marketing.

Cathy Hotka
11 years 8 days ago

I grew up when–gasp!–there was no Internet. How did we survive???

Bill Hanifin
11 years 8 days ago
After you settle down over the absurdity of “how tough it is” to go unplugged for 24 hours, as business people we have to accept the reality that this is the way the Millennial Generation lives. As the study says, they generally do not read newspapers (don’t read enough in general, in my opinion) and certainly do not listen to national news or much drive-time radio. It stands to reason that if their default source for news and information is the internet, that it is indeed difficult to unplug. The challenge for marketers is not to engage with Millennials in the channel and to deliver content, but to cope with the “everything is free” mentality that has grown up with the internet. If information access is all for free and we are not to cross the line by sending what traditional DMs would term a “call to action,” then we are indeed confronted with a new set of rules. We have to learn to create value in consumer minds in a different way than in… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 8 days ago
OMG, what a novel thought. To spend 24 straight hours without technology pieces to tell us what is happening in the/our world? Frankly, it is a bit scary to me, although I would have liked to participate in the original study, even though we are talking closer to my grandchildren’s age than mine. I admit it. I am addicted. Right now, I am trying to wean off reading and responding to messages while waiting at traffic lights. It is not easy; but when my wife is in the car staring at me, I know better than to even pick up the BlackBerry. I am one who looks at my messages just prior to going to bed and looking again first thing in the morning. I often wonder what I actually expect to see of any true value either of those times. There is true and real value to having technology at our fingertips. being current with world events is certainly one. But we are missing out in what I consider the real art of communicating… Read more »
Phil Rubin
11 years 8 days ago

This is not just a Millennial thing but it’s increasingly a multi-generational state. Yesterday at a restaurant I looked around and noticed how many people had a smartphone on the table and the relative frequency of reaching for it. It was nearly (and sadly) and almost universal truth that everyone, regardless of demography, was periodically and all too often with device “in-hand.”

While this is indeed particularly challenging for marketers focused on Millenials, it’s increasingly true for older generations, from GenX to Baby Boomers. The more there is to do digitally and portably, the more everyone appears to have ADD.

Relevance and value are, as they have been, fundamental but the premium being placed on these dimensions, along with speed, is only going to grow from here.

Best to unplug for a day and really think about its impact for your business!

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
11 years 8 days ago

I think that people will grow tired of the constant intrusion and the always-on mentality. The last thing I want is to have someone know where I am, send me messages to my phone (I get enough email). I actually look forward to getting the mail. There is SO MUCH noise in the channel and there is the next big thing everyday. It is funny; with all of this social and mobile, ad rates on TV, Radio, and Print are either holding steady or rising, especially for TV.


Take Our Instant Poll

By 2020, how much of marketing will be driven by social media?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...