Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Embracing the early majority

This is my phone. It is not smart. It does not come with a data plan. I cannot buy apps, use Foursquare, or listen to music on it. There is nothing cool about it, but it suits my lifestyle (and budget) just fine.

I realize that mobile marketing is predicted to become the next big thing. I know that one day, I will need to have a better phone to keep up with my target audiences. But not just yet.

I am a proud member of the early majority. Diffusion of innovations theory, which examines the acceptance of new ideas and technology in a population, describes five major categories of consumers: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

In a world where devices are getting smaller and social media channels are getting bigger, it's easy to get caught up in the desire to innovate. To focus more on the tools, and less on how they can help achieve specific goals. At the same time, most everyone in higher ed is being asked to do more with less.

The key is to find the intersection where technology and effectiveness meet.

Take the cell phone example. My school's Web stats indicate that less than 2 percent of our visits come from mobile devices. Should we ignore this growing group of users? No. At bare minimum, we should watch these numbers and examine our sites on mobile devices. But does that mean that we should also develop a parallel mobile Web site, iPhone apps, and mobile fundraising campaigns?

With with limited resources, a smart PR office must set priorities. It's easy to get caught up in the hype of new tools, or to feel like you're behind the curve if you're not using them. Yes, many can improve your communications toolbox at an individual or institutional level, but only if you know what you're doing and why. Too often, people talk about creating social media accounts or building applications because everyone else is.

It's wise to watch trends in higher ed marketing, to know your audiences, and to modestly invest time into experimenting with new tools. Follow the innovators and early adopters, and learn from their successes and mistakes. Do your homework, think strategically, and adopt new technologies when they will best address your institution's needs.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...just read Karine Joly's University Business article on "Websites Gone Mobile." Perhaps our low number of mobile users are because we don't have a mobile Web site. What do you think?