Commentary

How to Avoid Social Presbyopia

According to the National Library of Medicine, Presbyopia is a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus, making it difficult to see objects up close. I’m afraid that many in my generation are also at risk for social presbyopia: the inability to acknowledge the seismic shifts in behavior driven by social media -- and worse yet, the reluctance to personally embrace these changes themselves.

Sure -- baby boomers are catching on to Facebook, but I still find tremendous resistance to the notion that social media is more than another dot-com fad. To quote one such reader of my recent MediaPost article on the future of social shopping: “Sheesh. There is nothing -- NOTHING -- solid out there, yet, to suggest that social media (SOCIAL MEDIA!!!!) is going to have much of an impact on, well, anything.”

Clearly, this particular gentleman is fed up with all the social media hype, or perhaps he’s simply overwhelmed by the seemingly endless drivel he sees on Twitter and Facebook. But regardless, he does have an acute case of social presbyopia -- one that is undoubtedly aggravated by his inability to focus on what’s happening below the surface. You, however, can avoid this problem with the following prescriptive steps.

When in doubt, scan the search results

On the surface, Google+ is a classic example of over-hype. Its rapid enrollment of 100 million users seems mythical; its purpose is not easily differentiated from Facebook; and its role in the marketing mix is still unclear. But stopping here would miss the point. If search results matter to you, as they do to 99.9% of brands, then consider who owns and operates this social network. Google is already indexing Google+ posts -- quite favorably it seems -- so frankly, it’s be there or be missed. 

Peek beyond the pictures

After attracting over 12 million unique visitors last month, Pinterest has become the poster child of the next new thing. Given the simplicity of this online “pinboard,” which simply aggregates pictures people find “pinteresting” into virtual scrapbooks, it would be easy to dismiss it as the domain of young women with too much time on their hands. In truth, many enlightened brands like Oreck, Chobani, Mashable and GE have discovered that Pinterest is a traffic-driving dream come true. (Shareaholic reported that Pinterest ranked 4th in referral traffic in January -- just behind Google!)

It’s time to start seeing double

Social TV is one of those emerging ideas that gives traditional couch potatoes fits while the CE industry and start-ups from the Valley to the Alley try to figure out how to integrate social media with TV viewing. Considering that over 12 million comments were shared socially during the Super Bowl, including a vision-blurring 10,000 tweets a second in the final three minutes, it is apparent that having a second screen open while watching TV is a new behavior worth monitoring. Clearly, waiting for the water cooler to share reviews is simply passé -- and also, it’s time to take a closer look at social TV apps like GetGlue and Miso.

Keep your eyes on mobile

MoSoLo is not a new neighborhood in Manhattan, but rather an acronym for the dynamic combination of mobile, social and location-based applications. Unfortunately, with FourSquare’s growth out of the headlines, this trend also could be dismissed as a fad and marketers might be tempted to throw the mobile social baby out with the location-based bathwater. Bad idea. Over 50% of shoppers consulted their mobile devices while at retail this past December; therefore, having a multi-tiered mobile strategy is essential for just about any brand. If your Web site isn’t mobile-friendly, fix that. Next, think about apps that deliver genuine value, integrate social and capitalize on mobile functionality like barcode scanning, GPS and voice.

Don’t get trapped in the current fog about blogs

Blogging -- one of the early wonders of the Web -- has been losing steam lately, particularly among B2B marketers. Some are undoubtedly distracted by newer social channels, while others find the commitment to generating quality content on an ongoing basis a bit overwhelming. Big mistake. Blogs are still among the best ways to improve natural search results, as well as provide genuinely useful information to ultimately appreciative prospects and customers.

Final Note: Optical presbyopia is far from fatal and typically corrected with glasses, contact lenses and even laser surgery. Similarly, social presbyopia is hardly terminal and can be fixed with a steady diet of social experimentation and the vision to see past the naysayers. 

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9 comments about "How to Avoid Social Presbyopia".
  1. Greg Russak from Just Between Friends, Inc. , February 21, 2012 at 8:28 a.m.
    Great article. Was just having this discussion last night; another in a long string of such discussions with fellow "tail-end" baby boomers. Some people also think they can hold back ocean tides, it seems. One doesn't always need to like change, but it happens nonetheless.
  2. Karen Ticktin from brandthis , February 21, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.
    No great surprise that many marketers are resisting change. I remember in the early 90' s imploring my management to allow me to siphon of $100k from my $40M+ budget to spend on this thing called the internet.
  3. Susan Tellem from Tellem Grody PR , February 21, 2012 at 1:29 p.m.
    OMG - thank you for this "eye opening" article that I can share with my old fogie peers. Whenever we discuss social media, I get this deer in the headlights look. I know that they are silently praying that social media will die a quick death. Me? I love it! PR was getting pretty stale after 30 years. It's given us a whole new way to greet the day!
  4. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , February 21, 2012 at 5:32 p.m.
    If you want to be in this business, and stay in this business, presbyopia is not an option. However, wise thinking in your approach to this change is. Interesting in that the word presbyopia is translated as "wise vision." Better to have that than the more dreaded "old vision."
  5. Cece Forrester from tbd , February 21, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.
    Hmmm. Shouldn't we allow a distinction between "this is not for me" and "it'll never catch on?" Media professionals aren't required to BE their targets--just to understand them. There might actually be an advantage to being a rational contrarian (not a reflexive one). I find the opposite optical illusion to the one you cite to be rather too common these days: The idea that absolutely everyone is now on XYZ form of media, the resultant erroneous corollary that anyone who isn't on it doesn't have a legitimate existence in the world, and the wishful, self-sabotaging hope that now our job will be as easy as pushing one button! I submit that the appropriate vision corrective is a 3D viewer, to provide real perspective on the questions of which media work for which types of people, and how to use them strategically. The truth is, this picture takes time to become clear. The early enthusiasm/adoption curve can be deceptive when you stand too close to it.
  6. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications , February 21, 2012 at 6:47 p.m.
    Great point, Drew. I think some Boomers are, like me, caught between the old and new. Too busy doing things the old way, not enough time to try doing things the new way. It's a constant struggle to go both ways for me and, frankly, I wish I could abandon the old FOR the new. No time!
  7. Steven Arsenault from OneBigBroadcast.com , February 21, 2012 at 9 p.m.
    I remember not too long ago being laughed out of board room presentations talking about automating social news delivery from our integrated broadcasting blog platforms. Who knew then how much influence each of the touch points in social would have on the entire planet.
  8. Drew Neisser from Renegade , February 21, 2012 at 10:02 p.m.
    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. I'd add more here but I can't find my reading glasses;-)
  9. Cynthia Siemens from ContentManagement.com , February 24, 2012 at 7:09 p.m.
    I was certain that this article was going to be a play on Presbyterians in some way -- you know, their lack of differentiation in an increasingly anti-church world or something. But it was pithy nonetheless, and I agree with it.