Twitter is so last week. Visuals are worth three dozen letters. Vine and Instagram, the latter having recently launched its 15-second format, are the quick-serve social du jour. Facebook is out, except when you want to comment on something, or join something, then they've got you by the cojones. Marketers are rushing in. Is there a war between the 15-second video and the 6-second bite? Probably not, at least as far as the auto folks are concerned. They, and everyone else, are chasing high-volume platforms populated -- one presumes -- by younger people. It's a marketing Klondike. Yes, marketers can't possibly keep up with the changes, but now in ’n’ out social media is first-mover heaven.
Of course, trying to be the first one there is a bit like rushing to go fly fishing when the news breaks that there's a sockeye run on the upper Willamette. Another analogy: it's Friday night, and you're waiting for a cab on 36th Street. Someone mentions there's a cab run on 8th Avenue, you run over there, and there's already 20 people with their thumbs out.
This happened to me: I was leaving a diner on Friday night a couple of weeks back on that very street. No cabs. I walked over to the avenue, stepped to the curb to hail one. Suddenly out of nowhere this pair ran up to me -- I"m telling you they could have been from central casting for an educational video about how to be mellow in Topanga Canyon -- threatening to break my nose. It seems I should have noticed that they were trying to get a cab, too, and I'd stepped to the left of them on the one-way avenue heading right.
In the past couple of weeks, Instagram and Vine have hotted-up with social programs from the likes of Honda, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan. What's shaking? Forty million younger consumers, that's what. Instagram and Vine are in -- they're huge, they're a mosh pit of people sick of static social platforms. Facebook sucks unless you're over 40. I couldn't figure any of this out, which is embarrassing because I write about marketing, and everyone knows that friends on Facebook are like chips in zero-stakes blackjack. You have a million friends? So do I, thanks to six degrees of separation.
Bernhard Glaser, who heads the marketing operation at Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. and uses Instagram, explained it to me. "It's easy and fast; that's why younger people like it: it's taking a photo with your smartphone and uploading it. Young people don't use Facebook any more. It's too complicated and takes too long." But he does make the point that MB has a lot of friends, and is trying to get some of them over to Instagram.
Hell, I don't even use Facebook -- mostly because I don't understand it and also I don't like the fact that Zuckerberg apparently hasn't changed that hoodie for six years. Also, it takes too much attention. As Glaser said, it takes too long. Younger folks' attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. At this rate, in three years they'll have the attention span of fruit flies. Been to a movie lately? Do you know why you want to call your psychiatrist after watching the trailers? They turn up the volume to six times normal and and no image of someone getting shot or something blowing up takes more than a second because young people have no attention span.
When I was young, people with short attention deficits read On the Road. Which person who isn't taking Ritalin has the time or capacity to do that now? In fact, who has time to go on the road at all, when you can see people do that online? Just last week, Honda launched campaigns focused precisely on that very thing, with Instagram as the platform. That might backfire, to the chagrin of automakers.
I know because I have this problem: it has been my dream to ride my bicycle across the United States. So I have been going on YouTube to watch people riding their bicycles across the United States. I've done it for hours, it seems like. Last night, my wife came up to me and said, "You know what? You're never going to do it, because you're doing it right now at the kitchen table." Is she right? I'd like to say she is not, and that this is actually whetting my appetite to do it. "If you want to get motivated, read On the Road." I would, but I don't have time.