Sunday, September 1, 2013

Are We Becoming Too Mobile?


My husband playing a game on his mobile device.
Imagine yourself in New York City walking the streets. What do you see? You probably see people walking all around the city talking on their mobile devices or texting on their smartphones. The world as we know it is becoming more dependent on mobile technology. Why is the new advancement in technology so important to strategic communicators and the media? Mobile technology has changed the way the public views the news. More people are going online and using their smartphones to find out what is going on in the world. However, statistics have shown that people still use traditional platforms such as listening to the radio or watching television news. (Blodget, 2012) As mobile users increase, companies are adopting a “mobile first” approach; however, the company should make sure that such a strategic plan is right for their company. The problem with the “mobile first” approach is that companies need to be aware of the digital divide. “The “Digital Divide” is defined as the gap between those with regular, effective access and ability to use digital technologies and those without.” (Boyera, 2004) Some less than fortunate consumers cannot afford cellphones that have all the fancy bells and whistles. Therefore, companies are going to miss those consumers. If companies use both traditional and mobile platforms to market their products then they will reach and meet the needs of all the population. There is no denying that mobile devices have changed our daily lives. We are more connected and accessible than ever before. There is also no denying the impact that mobile devices have had on media and marketing. In fact, mobile devices have become a huge market of their own. I would estimate that atleast one out of four TV ads are an advertisement for a mobile device or mobile service provider. Once you have connected online through your mobile device, you instantly begin to be bombarded with well-placed strategic advertisements. Even if you are not trying to surf the web, but you are simply playing a game you will see ads for other games or an upgraded version of the game that you are playing at the moment. Then you have to decide if you want to try the new latest game or upgrade the game you have. This is the mobile version of free samples much like the free samples you see at the stores and flyers and coupons in your mailbox. Unlike mass advertising through the postal service, mobile marketing can be better targeted at specific consumer groups. When you open your mailbox to find it full of “junk mail,” the inclination is to sift through it for bills and letters then throw the rest away without looking at the rest of it. However, when you open a frequently used app and are prompted to see all the features you can get by upgrading from the free version to the paid version you are more likely to engage in this form of marketing, because it is directed specifically at you. John McDermott states, “Despite having a decidedly negative view of mobile advertising, a significant portion of mobile users were open to mobile ad targeting based upon their personal interests (49%) and current location (43%).” (2012) This means that about half of mobile users are okay with receiving advertisements via their phone as long as it is geared to their personal interest and location.  For example, if you were a restaurant company that was only located in San Diego, California you would not want to send your coupons via mobile to people outside of the San Diego area. That would be a bad marketing strategy. Instead, you would want to send the coupons to San Diego residents that use mobile devices.

            However, there is a downside to all of this mobile usage. Rich Ling states, “The ringing of the device, the perception that one talks too loudly, and the sense that one coerces others to eavesdrop on their conversations are all seen as intrusions on the public sphere. (2004)” All too often we find ourselves in the uncomfortable situation of hearing a total stranger’s conversation, because they either do not realize it or just do not care that everyone around them can hear every word they speak. Even worse, in my opinion, are the people who carelessly use hands-free devices like Bluetooth headsets. These people walk around talking to themselves, and you sometimes mistakenly think they are talking to you. Another aspect of mobile dependency is the tendency to never put the thing away when socializing with friends or family. All too often when I get together with my family there comes a point when we all realize we are sitting in a room with every one of us looking at our phones playing games or even texting one another from across the room. Attachment to our mobile devices can be a social handicap if we allow the use of these devices to replace face-to-face interactions. I have noticed another side effect of the constantly connected world we live in. When getting together with family or friends you have not seen in a while, there is nothing to talk about, because everyone already knows everything that everyone has been doing; therefore, with a lack of conversational material, we revert back to playing with our phones. The same concept exists in the media. There is no need to wait for the six o’clock news when you can get the news in real time by going to any number of news or social media sites. Take the weather channel app for example, instead of waiting to hear it from the meteorologist on your local news cast, you can simply pull out your phone and get everything from a seven day outlook to hour-by-hour forecast with live streaming radar. I guess the key to it all is finding a balance between the real world and the digital world. Mobile technology has made our lives more convenient, but like anything else there can be too much of a good thing.          

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