It would seem, in this digital age, that Social Media is digital. People are online, working and communicating digitally. Bits and bytes, not postage stamps and dial telephones. Surely everything about this new age of Social Media is digital.
Social Media has always been in existence — using different mediums — and it has always been analog. Whether word-of-mouth, pamphlets, telegraph, letters to the editor, telephone, or snail mail, humans have always been social, and they have used the technology of the era to accomplish this. This communication now exists online, which means it has a larger presence thanks to the global and fast nature of the medium, but that has not changed the nature of the message.
The message is created and read by analog people.
The Nature of Analog
Analog can’t be controlled like digital. It travels the path of least resistance instead of a path we tell it to follow. It doesn’t obey ‘if/then’ statements. It solves problems not by programming, but by reaching an equilibrium with its environment. It is susceptible to outside noise, which has an effect on the final result.
Social Media isn’t made of circuits, it’s made of people. And people are analog.
People think quickly, and make choices based on an internal efficiency. They go with what is easiest, what keeps the flow going. They are not always controlled, and aren’t limited to the ‘if/then’ options we try to force them to use. They learn, adapt, and mimic outside of the defined parameters of digital. They don’t always do what we want or think they should do. They’ll just as soon click away from our message as stick around to read it. It all depends upon the moment they’re in and what kind of equilibrium they’re trying to reach right then.
The Nature of Digital
Digital is something we program. It’s more reliable, more predictive. We create an environment with a specific set of questions and a set number of ways to answer the questions. We determine a limited numer of solutions to a problem. We create flow charts and know that while we might not control how the answer is reached, the eventual answer reached will be within our parameters. Digital seems self-aware in that it mimics our own problem-solving abilities. We programmed it that way.
Traditional marketing is digital. Marketing wants a reliable, controllable customer. They want a customer that is easy to configure, and immune to noise and outside influence. They want a market that is simple to design, with limited ways to resolve the questions. Creating this very controlled marketing is very expensive and takes a serious investment to find the optimal programming.
Going Analog In A Digital World
Traditional marketing doesn’t really work, especially now when the technology has actually encouraged that analog path of least resistance. When there were fewer paths, we could at least herd people towards a certain outcome. Now, there are too many paths, too many ways for people to find a different way, a different message, and a better equilibrium. Traditional marketing is a digital answer to analog people who have endless paths in front of them.
Can people be made digital? Not really. We don’t really want a robot for a customer anyway.
Can marketing be made analog? Definitely, by using Social Media.
Think about how viral marketing is analog; the message is sent out into the unknown and the people are allowed to incorporate it, use it, and share it according to the needs of their personal equilibrium. Social Media, even when it hasn’t gone viral, is the same. We can provide paths for people to find, we can encourage them to see our message, our brand, as the path of least resistance. We make our path the easiest and people will naturally flow into it.
Tap into both. Embrace the analog nature of people and marketing while using the great Social Media technology available. And be thankful that we aren’t selling to robots. Robots might be easier to sell to, but they’re really rough on humanity when they invade.