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Over the last four years, the velocity of a major media transformation has been breathtaking. Investment guru Jim Cramer called it the "mobile Internet tsunami" and he nailed it before many realized what was happening.
Let's take a step back and reflect on how audiences have adopted new media over the years and the time it took before the next leap occurred. Think about the time that lapsed between newspapers to radio, from radio to television, from television to computer-based Internet and now the mobile Internet.
In just a few short years, we've seen a massive shift of audience investment and attention span to mobile internet devices. That's translated into big business for those who, like Cramer, saw the tsunami coming. Apple's iPhone business alone is now larger than Microsoft's entire company.
With all of the hoopla over Facebook's IPO, investors' biggest concern holding the stock price down is the fear that the company will not be able to deliver its ad revenue magic on the mobile Internet platform. Wall Street is a reflection of what's happening in society.
A simple observation is telling. A couple of years ago, I was traveling to a conference and in the course of connecting through a city to reach my destination I noticed something curious among the people I observed in three airports and on three planes. People weren't talking as much. I didn't see many books or newspapers. Where there were television screens, people weren't watching. I saw people with their heads down, looking at their iPhone, Android or Blackberry devices, many times while they were walking through the airport. Even when on the plane, the airline's magazine (where ad space used to be more highly coveted) didn't get much attention--there are Kindles and iPads to occupy an air traveler's attention! I'll have to admit, I was just as captivated with my iPhone, iPad and Kindle, but I couldn't help reflecting on what's happened with audience migration.
A key takeaway here is the importance of following the audience. The Pew Internet research project published June 26, 2012 found that nearly half of all Americans own a smart phone of some kind and 90 percent of them say they use their phone to access the Internet. A recent study published by Pers Ubiquit Comput found that smartphone user subjects checked their smartphones 34 times per day--not because they needed to, but rather because it had become a habit or compulsion.
Why is the "mobile Internet tsunami" so important? I believe it represents one of the most important areas of opportunity for marketing and social media--largely because it's fertile ground. Back in 1997, there were many who doubted Internet companies could generate meaningful advertising revenues over the long haul. It was hard to imagine a different advertising platform.
The reason Internet advertising has become so prevalent and successful is because that's where the audience went. Google realized that the Internet user searches for information instead of having it delivered in a one-way broadcast. To master search creates the dominant platform for advertising. Facebook realized that a critically powerful aspect of the Internet is its potential to connect people in a world where families and friends are often not as close geographically as they used to be. This created a social media platform, where to be first has yielded tremendous advantages and an advertising platform that's caused even Google to take notice.
Why is all of this so important? As healthcare marketers, our goal should be to proactively deploy strategies to meet the audience as it moves and evolves--in ways that are relevant and useful. That requires us to observe trends not just in journals or case studies but in everyday life. At the Nebraska Medical Center, we're engaging our physicians, patients and staff to embrace the shifts in media. When I talk with physicians, I describe our work in marketing and social media as a practice. Our success depends upon listening to our audiences and developing accordingly.
The Nebraska Medical Center's Internet presence can be found in a number of locations, both in desktop and mobile Internet versions. On YouTube, search "Nebraska Medical Center" or go directly to its YouTube Channel. Patients also can visit the hospital's website, our Facebook page, Google+ and Twitter feed.
Tadd M. Pullin is the vice president of marketing, planning and network operations at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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