The Smartphone Revolution – You Won’t Fool The Children

While social media usage and applications will continue to evolve over the coming months and years, three things are certain: It’s only going to get bigger. No business can afford to ignore it. And, you won’t fool the children of the smartphone revolution.

What an astonishing quote to pull from a statistics document. This came from a report by Sensis released in May 2011 (and found by me after something of a delay). What Australian People and Businesses are doing with Socia Media

And it’s very true – engaging the community online is not something that can be delayed without consequence. The revolution has happened, ignoring it won’t make it go away and the consequences and costs of inaction are mounting.

And what else was in this fabulous stats document?

The report also reveals that only 5% of people identify engaging with government as something they do on social networking sites after all of these:

  • To catch up with friends and family
  • To share photographs or videos
  • To co-ordinate parties or other shared activities
  • To find out about entertainment events such as bands
  • To play games
  • To meet new friends
  • To follow or find out about particular brands or businesses
  • To find people with the same interests that you have
  • To research holiday destinations or travel offers
  • To research other products or services you might want to buy
  • To follow brands or business to access special offers/ promotions
  • To follow celebrities
  • To provide reviews or write blogs about products or services

And that the average number of uses per person is low at 2.8 for men and 3.6 for women.

marketers should respect how people view their social media interactions. The top reasons people use social media are catching up with friends and family, sharing photos or videos, and coordinating social events

I’m pleased to see these stats as they quantify an important fact that I think those designing online engagement processes need to keep in mind. People, generally, do not go to social media sites to engage with government. They go there for fun and to interact with their friends. Just because half of Australians have a Facebook account does not mean that this is where they want to interact with the government. I think that the level of activity on many (though by no means all) government Facebook pages backs this up. Just to be clear by activity I do not mean ‘followers’ or ‘likers’ I mean repeat visitation and discussion.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not anti-Facebook and usually will advise those who ask that a Facebook presence is a useful way of sharing information with the community (though it is not a space that lends its self to interpreting community feedback and visitation patterns). There are some very successful government Facebook communities running – but they take time, attention and work. I think these statistics show that the half-arsed approach to online engagement represented by chucking up a Facebook page and assuming that people will find it just because they are on Facebook too, will not work – they are not looking for you, you need to work much harder than that.

Moving on, there is some interesting stuff about smartphone online engagement:

Around 6 in 10 use desktops or laptops to access their social media sites, with 34% using a smart phone and around 1 in 20 using an iPod Touch-type device or a tablet. Among the 14-19 year olds, a high 52% access via smart phone – the equivalent to the proportion accessing sites through a desktop and almost as much as the proportion accessing through a laptop computer

Ah, so now I see why techy types have been running around saying if it’s not mobile it’s just not cool (or something similar). I never really agreed with that just because we see such a low rate of mobile access of our sites (and yes they can be used on smartphones). 8% of our usage is on mobile devices, but over half of that is via tablet computers and I’m not sure they count because they have quite a large screen. I know on my iPad I eschew many of the apps in favour of the full websites.

I have always put this down to the fact that there are some things we like to do when we are mobile but that taking the time to really learn about an issue (reading stuff etc) and entering a discussion is not really one of them. To some extent I think this is backed up by the stat:

79% of searches done on computers and only 6% on mobile device.

Now I may be clutching at straws here but it seems that if people are not using mobiles to search for information much, it might also follow that they are choosing not to use them for deeper web-based activities such as learning and researching and I think these are both critical elements of successful online engagement – there’s not much value to be gained from collecting ill-informed ideas and for most issues sharing information is a critical precursor to successful community engagement.

I wouldn’t ever argue against the importance of mobile compatibility, it gives people choice and access – but I think before getting swept away by some of the hubris about mobile device usage we need to consider that there are many things we do on computers (and tablets) that we might not want to do on our phones.

Finally –

Internet usage remains at the 90%+ level across all age groups until we reach 65+ where it drops to just 80%.

Yep, pretty much everyone is online these days.

Photo Credits: Yoann JEZEQUEL

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