The above screenshot is from Erik Qualman’s Social Media Revolution 2015 YouTube video. It’s kind of a shocking statistic, but one that I’ve seen numerous times. We are so inundated with inputs on a daily basis that an individual stimulus receives very little acknowledgement. The average child takes in 26 hours of media in a given 24 hour period of time (which is even more shocking when you consider that 6-8 of those hours are sleep). And we all know what this looks like: headphones in while studying, scrolling through Twitter during a lecture, having the TV on while doing homework.
So what’s the solution? While there may not be a single right answer, there is definitely a wrong answer. And the wrong answer is this: eschewing the technology and trends by trying to force them out. Like the professor who says no electronics of any kind in the classroom, or the school system that tries to enforce an archaic ‘no cell phones at school’ policy.
Rather than trying to use a push strategy to force the message/lecture/ad/communication onto the target audience, use a pull strategy. If the content itself is engaging, then the audience will self-select to pay attention. Think of the Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ character. The campaign ran in the US from 2006 to 2010. To put that into personal perspective, I turned 18 the year that the ad went off the air. And yet, 3 years later, when I turned 21, the no-longer running ad still impacted my beer purchasing habits (and still does). And the ad has become a viral meme now, effectively perpetuating the campaign into what will be its 10th year next year. Think, too, of a compelling speaker capturing the audience’s attention. Every year, I attend the National Storytelling Festival, where 10,000 of the 7-second attention span people spend 3 days listening to stories all day every day. And not only do we all self-select to hear and be focused on those stories, but we pay a good deal of money to do so.
Integration with technology and social media is key, particularly when it comes to education. For Millennials, social media is woven throughout their lives, from choosing a restaurant in a new city (Yelp), to buying coffee (Starbucks app), to keeping touch with an increasingly global network (Facebook, Twitter, etc). I’ve seen this done well twice (although I’m sure there are more instances out there). In undergrad, one of my professors had us follow her on Twitter on the first day. She had ‘Skype hours’ in addition to regular office hours, and very clearly told us she could care less if we were on our phones or tablets all class. The second, in grad school, had its own Twitter handle and hashtag. Students were not only encouraged to interact with the class via Twitter, but were often praised in class for doing so. Integration is key.