I think a lot about how people get and share information, how technology impacts those experiences, and what organizations need to consider (and do) when trying to communicate or engage or direct an audience towards taking some kind of action (purchase, learn, advocate, etc.) in our connected society.
The biggest challenge I face is what I call ‘shiny object syndrome’ – or more broadly the emphasis that people put on technology, often letting the tools drive the conversation and their decision-making. But technology is not the solution, its just the facilitator of the actions you want people to take. To be successful, you have to provide/create good content, create experiences people want to be involved with, or offer a product (‘stuff’) that people need in their lives.
It seems, Fred Wilson, a VC and principal of Union Square Ventures, is on the same page. He wrote the following in a blog post about what drives consumer adoption of new technologies:
In most of these cases, the breakthrough product or service delivered a new experience to consumers that they had never had before. Sure there were social nets before Facebook, but none allowed you to run your life the way Facebook does for my kids. Sure there were browsers on phones before the iPhone, but there hadn’t been one that you could actually use like you use a browser on a computer. Sure there had been personalized internet radio services before Pandora but not one that was drop dead simple and delivered a great experience.
So it seems to me that consumers are driven to new experiences that are simple and useful and/or entertaining. It is not enough to be the first to market with a new technology. You have to be the first to market with a version of the technology that is simple and easy to use.
I would go further than Fred Wilson. People are increasingly moving towards using technology that provides a value or serves an important role in their life. Having and using a tool simply isn’t enough. The value to someone might be around entertainment, or education — or just from the experience of using it (in which case simple and easy to use are the top priorities). But, being able to use that technology to get questions answered, accomplish tasks, or at very least not having some piece of technology make it more difficult to get through the day, get the information you want/need, or take the actions you are interesting in taking, is valuable. Too much of the technology that is created today simply fills space, it doesn’t add value to our lives. And we just won’t tolerate that anymore, not with everything else going on and all the competition for our time.
So, people gravitate towards information, experiences, and stuff that they find valuable. In many cases that is technology. But they don’t use technology because its there — or at least that’s changing more and more every day.