Sometime in the mid 1980’s the last generation to rely on the telephone for instant communication was born. These children would turn on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) in middle-school, Myspace in HighSchool and would be among the earliest adopters of Facebook, back when it was still only for college students.
The communication landscape changed for this generation and it continues to change. Even age groups just one or two years apart tend to interface with these media differently as they adopted them earlier and earlier in life. For example, the newest batch of college freshman may never have used AIM, missing entirely it’s quasi-private telephone like peer to peer communication. Instead, their early experience centered around MySpace, they grew up in an era when cyber-bullying and sexting was a public concern.
They’ve also grown up publicly documenting their lives in excruciating (and at times grotesque) detail. Wearing brands on their chests, embroidered or screen-printed on their sweaters and tee-shirts but also connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter. Not only for the deals we typically ascribe to the number of followers a brand achieves, but for the status of Liking Puma.
The ethical and philosophical issues abound when we discuss the way communication has changed. But the point of bringing this all up isn’t to start a debate. Instead it’s simply to illustrate that the smartphone is rarely used as a phone. It’s used to Yelp, Tweeet and Facebook. Recommendations on restaurants, stores and shopping are instantly available from the crowd and from peers always available and always tweeting via their iPhone.
As a store owner you can’t control these Tweets, but you can have a presence on the tweeter’s stream. Reminding them, constantly, that you exist. In the early 2000’s Ralph Lauren’s polo player logo grew to epic proportions. It’s now called the “Big Pony” logo. It’s marketed at 18-34 year olds, the people that grew up on Facebook and AOL instant messenger. The people that need an always on, always bigger and better reminder that your brand is there.
You don’t necessarily need to be bigger and brighter or have more glitter to stand out. Instead you can form a personal relationship with your users. There is a restaurant near my apartment. I’ve never actually been to it, but they have an amazing Twitter presence. They are constantly engaged, they respond to tweets, they share news; they are personable. I’ve recommended them several times to friends – even though I have never been there. The reason is simple, When you feel a connection to a brand and someone wants a recommendation, you’ll remember that brand.
Because that restaurant is personable and because I’m constantly reminded of them, they are frequently on my mind. This is the number one reason to Tweet and Facebook. The AIM generation doesn’t look first to the metro magazine for restaurant reviews, they look to their peers and they look to the crowd. Your brand needs to be there for them to engage with, to provide a constant reminder that you have what they want.