Watching Biz Stone, Twitter Founder, on the Colbert Report I was struck by how quickly the marketing world is changing. It wasn’t long ago that a person was defined by their home and, to a lesser extent, their office space. That’s where we kept our records, pinned up photos, decorated our walls and made conscious choices as to who we invited into our “space”. The distance in between those two places – the home and the workplace – was exactly that. Outside the places we used to define ourselves.
Now that all exists within our computers. In our websites, address books, Facebook or MySpace pages, emails, photo albums and, more recently, tweets. Mobile phones are close to offering the same breadth of self-definition. Our wallpapers, ringtones, websites, photos, address books, emails and personal information condensed into a comprehensive self-portrait that fits in the palm of your hand.
So when Biz Stone went on to explain that he hoped to network not just all computers worldwide but also 4 billion mobile phones that will communicate seamlessly and instantaneously, I wondered what implications this had for reaching a ‘target audience’. When everything you are is now portable and encodable enough to be everywhere you are, your sense of home and place is effected. When your decisions are no longer influenced by the opinions of just a few close friends, but rather, is informed by the instantaneous tsunami of teeming, well-informed and hyper-vigilant masses, your mind becomes as much a part of a shared consciousness as it is your own.
The importance of this was alluded to by Stone himself. When asked by Colbert when Twitter will make any money, he happily distinguished between value and profit. The value of Twitter technology is the dynamics it creates and once that architecture is in place, it can be monetized in an infinite number of ways. That is why Stone is content to continue adding value for now and why Google is interested in a partnership.
In my mind this means marketers must appeal not so much to the individual as to the dynamic. Consumer behavior will become increasingly consensual and successful marketers will be the ones who master the art of steering these seamless and instantaneous communication dynamics to their benefit. In the same way, marketers must recognize the everywhere in everyone when determining who we are trying to reach. The portability of an individual’s identity and the flow of communication between these individuals are the new determinants. While the medium is still the message, as Marshall McLuhan noted, movement is now just as important.