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Jun 16, 200912:00 AMThe Web Chef's Cafe

with Paul Gibler

It's the Norm, Not Just for Porn

It's the Norm, Not Just for Porn

The Web Chef's Café will focus on giving you insights, tips and links to free and fee resources on some of the latest developments in online marketing. Our Web Chef encourages you to send topic ideas and to comment on the postings as the bi-weekly series continues to evolve. Read Full Bio

In the Tony Award-winning hit Broadway show Avenue Q, Trekkie Monster let us know that "the Internet is for porn." In his unique and entertaining worldview this narrow usage might have been the case, but today the Internet is becoming the norm. In fact, in a recent Gallup poll, 48% of Americans were found to spend at least one hour a day on the Internet, almost doubling since 2002.

The Census Bureau meanwhile revealed that at home Internet usage had more than tripled from 1997 (18%) to 2007 (62%). In a breakdown by state, Wisconsin placed seventh highest with an Internet usage of 69.3%, placing it well ahead of the national average and leading laggard states like West Virginia (52.9%) and Mississippi (51.5%).

This rapid increase in the use of the Internet has been facilitated by the availability and acceptance of broadband with 82% of Internet users now using this technology according to the Census report.

So where's the big growth in Internet usage taking place?

The Online Publishers Association tracks the usage of the Internet with their Internet Activity Index that breaks utilization down into 5 buckets of activities — content, communications, commerce, community and search. The share of each of these activities continues to shift with community doubling over the past year while communications continues to decline as consumers spend less time with e-mail.

In terms of community, Nielsen NetView reported that social network participation had grown 82% since 2002. Its recently released "Global Faces and Networked Places" report revealed research that showed that "Facebook — the world's most popular social network — is visited monthly by three in every 10 people online across the nine markets in which Nielsen tracks social networking use." They also found that the largest increase in social network use was taking place among the 35 to 49 year old segment. Nielsen also reported that online video viewing had jumped a phenomenal 339% since 2002. These rapid growth areas are part of the techniques that have come to be known as social media.

Not too surprisingly, interaction and utilization of these online tools is greater among young people, those that are highly educated and those with higher incomes — all segments that are well represented in the Greater Madison area. Gallup found that 68% of post-graduates use the Internet at least one hour a day and 62% of 18 to 29 year olds do the same.

So what do these trends mean to businesses?

The big takeaway is that you need to continue shifting your media spending and your marketing activities towards the channels where your audiences are consuming content, socializing and communicating. These online channels are continuing to see increases in advertising and marketing expenditures, but probably still not commensurate with the direction that the market is going.

The more progressive businesses are integrating social media activities into their marketing mix by adding online video, social networks, microblogging, photosharing, blogging, podcasting or other activities. Some good examples of locally-based companies that are incorporating these tools include MusicNotes.com with their blog with video called InTune and Wisconsinmade.com with a blog called Edible Antics, Madison Tanning Company with groups on Facebook (966 members as of the time this article is being written) and Myspace, a blog and even a Twitter feed (263 followers).

The best way to get started with these tools is to begin participating as a consumer while learning and exploring the options for tools that can help build your business by making connections with prospects and customers.

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