We’ll call it a technological earthquake (because we’re currently in Soutern California; you can call it a tornado or hurricane or monsoon… whatever).
The “seismologists” are the researchers at the USC Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future. They’re reporting on more than ten years of studies, tracking the emergence and use of technology and online activity. (You can find a summary of the results here.)
The article identifies some key takeaways from their work.
- Despite its popularity, social networking suffers from just a 14% confidence rate. According to Jeffrey I. Cole, Director of the Center for Digital Future, “…51% of users said that only a small portion or none of the information they see on social networking sites is reliable.” Yep. Makes you wonder: how credible do people think your association’s Facebook presence is? What can you do to improve their confidence in your social networking presence?
- The desktop PC is going to dwindle to 4-6% of computer users — and those will primarily be professionals who rely on computers for their work (programmers, financial planners, scientists, writers, gamers, analysts, and scientists). Tablets will soon become the most used personal computing devices because they are “more convenient and accessible than laptops and much more engaging to use.” Are you preparing for this shift? And, as you know I like to warn, do your members fit into the tablet profile, or are they in a field that will be in the minority but devoted group of desktop PC users? Because it won’t matter if 96% of the country is using tablets if 98% of your members are still using desktop PCs and/or laptops. Just sayin’.
- The irony about personal computing is that we believed they would be labor-saving devices — and they are — but they have also extended the workday into the evening and expanded the workweek into the weekend. Many people on vacations stay tethered to the office via e-mail, Twitter, and other methods. So here’s what you should be asking about your online offerings: are you making it worth your members’ time to participate in your Webinars, social networking discussions, online courses, and otherwise engage in the online activities you make available to them? Better make sure. The report suggests that people are soon going to have had it with all this and start cutting back. Don’t give your members reasons to cut you out.
- With the exception of four major newspapers (the NY Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal), Sunday metros and small weeklies, most US print newspapers will be gone in five years. The report asks, “How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?” What opportunities for you does this open up? How can your organization make up for any lost quality or depth of journalism? Where are the gaps that you can fill?
- How transparent are you? How do you reassure your members that their online presence with you is safe? “Our latest Digital Future study found that almost half of users age 16 and older are worried about companies checking what they do online; by comparison, 38% said that the government checking on them is a concern,” says Cole. While our members love making purchases and connecting with others online, they’re also very aware that the Web is public, and that information on them is collected with nearly every click. So far that isn’t stopping people from participating in online shopping, surveys, commenting on blogs, reviewing purchase experiences, adding rankings and ratings, etc…. But what are you doing to make sure your members don’t log off your site or your blog or move away from your Facebook or LinkedIn pages thinking, “Darn… I wonder what they’ll do with what I said there?” What are you doing to make sure your members aren’t balking at the information you’re asking for on profile pages? The tipping point for privacy concerns might still be a ways off… but there’s no doubt it’s on people’s minds.
- “Even though online outreach to voters continues to expand, and Internet fundraising is a major priority for candidates, the Internet is not yet considered a tool that voters can use to gain more political power or influence,” Cole says. Yet they believe this is changing and over the next two election cycles the Internet will become “a major factor in changing the political landscape.” Occupy Wall Street, Occupy LA, Occupy [fill in the name of your organization]. Occupy it online. What are the possibilities here? Threats? How can you get ahead of the potential impact of influencing politics online to benefit your organization’s mission? Is there a part you can play in accelerating this trend?
- Can you believe online buying is 18 years old? Amazon has flourished and Borders Books has suffered because of it, to cite an example from just one industry. Music CDs have pretty much gone by the wayside as fans download digital files. “Even though purchasing online has already had a significant impact on buying habits, the changes still to come in American purchasing brought by the Internet will no doubt be even more extensive,” says Cole. Are you leveraging online buying trends as fully as you could be? Are you taking orders online but still shipping out print books and manuals? Time to think hard about converting to ebooks…. I’ll digress from the report summary here to mention that ebook readers have satisfaction rates of 60% and higher (up to 75% for Kindle buyers). Kindle books outsold print books at Amazon this past year for the first time. It isn’t a fad. It’s a trend. Don’t be the Borders to someone else’s Amazon.
- A friend recently recounted his nephew’s description of a college party. “About fifteen people were there. And they were all texting each other. In the same room. My nephew said it was quiet. The quietest party you can imagine. Except for the occasional laughter when someone forwarded something funny or texted something witty. Then there would be a laugh, then another, as the message floated around the room.” Yes. In the same room. Texting each other. It’s no joke, it’s true, and the Digital Future’s report validates it. People are spending more time connected online than they do face-to-face. “But is quality being sacrificed for quantity?” Cole asks. “Will those who use social networking services consider them as alternatives to face-to-face involvement with the people in their lives?” In your organization’s social networking and other online environments, how are you ensuring that quality is overriding quantity? That your members are getting something valuable for their time? That they are able to make the same sorts of strong connections online that they make at face-to-face events?
- Are you ready for what’s next? “In 2006, YouTube and Twitter had just been born, and Facebook was a toddler. Six years ago, who would have thought that these nascent technologies would become the standard for social communication in 2011? The next major online trend is being developed right now by a new crop of Internet visionaries just waiting to be heard,” says Cole. How adaptable is your organization to upcoming change? Because there will be change.
And if I were to guess it would be about personalization. Think about it. You can order M&M candies with any message you want (that will fit their basic specs). You can create your own movies and upload them for the world to see. You can write and publish your own books with a few clicks of the mouse (okay, the publishing part… not the writing part). You can produce your own music and market it to your fans. You can order any number of items with your name or logo on them.
So can your members.
And the youngest members of our associations have been growing up in a personalized, customized, all about “me” world for a long time.
What are you doing to give your members a unique experience in your organization? Do they get the same tee-shirt as everyone else, or do you give them the opportunity to design their own? Do they have a say in the educational sessions available at the national conference? Can they control how and where and for how long they access online learning sessions? Or are you still making them fit your schedule? (Oh, that’s so last century!!)
Okay, glad I got that off my chest.
At least you can start with these ideas from the Center for the Digital Future and your pal here at aLearning, right?