Let’s take a trip back to the ‘90s. How was your life different? Chances are some of the main changes you’ll notice relate to digital media. Facebook wasn’t born yet, so annoying status updates (and endless photo albums of bare-baby-bums) weren’t yet a part of our daily lives. We weren’t privy to the intimate details of our friends’ eating habits and the only things tweeting were the birds.
Fast-forward to today and most of us have very active social media lifestyles. We have profiles on a number of social networking sites and social media terms have become the go-to verbs for describing a number of our regular daily activities. We go on dates with people we meet online and we’re able to connect in real-time with people on the other side of the world. It’s advisable to actively manage your online identity and Googling yourself (or as Wikipedia calls it, “egosurfing”) is the best way to do this. (Your 1990 self would have thought this was an activity better done in private – ahem.)
These changes are so profound, and seem to permeate so many aspects of our everyday lives, that I think a case can be made for the existence of a digital lifestyle.
Welcome to your Digital Life
TNS, a global marketing and social research firm, has put together Digital Life, a global study that measures people’s attitudes and behaviours online. The study is based on conversations with over 72,000 people in 60 countries that focused on what exactly they do online. The results offer valuable insights for brands looking to better connect with their customers through social media.
The TNS website is impressive. It offers a sampling of some of the Digital Life results in interactive and colourful graphics. You are able to narrow down the data based on such specifications as country and demographic and the graphs adjust instantly in response to your choice. While you are only offered a glimpse into the massive amount of data the study collected, it does offer some interesting insights into our online behaviours, including:
- What motivates Canadians to leave comments online: more people want to share information (33%) or help others (39%) than complain (12%) or praise a brand (16%).
- The current most popular online activities for Canadians: 1: Online banking 2. Watching user-created video 3. Watching professionally-created video.
- TNS projects that the online activities that will experience the most popularity growth are location-based services and timeshifted TV.
- No matter where people are in the purchasing decision process, they will research more touchpoints online than offline. While they will look at a lot of information before they make a purchase including brands and retailers, nothing holds more influence than friend and family recommendations.
- Although people will do a lot of online research, it’s important for brands to offer the same experiences in online stores as in offline stores.
- Depending on where in the world people live, they will have different attitudes toward how brands should utilize social media. Countries considered growth markets (those that are just starting to have high-speed Internet access, as well as access to social media) are more open to engaging with and buying from brands on social media.
What’s your digital lifestyle?
TNS also suggests that based on the Digital Life, there are six Digital Lifestyles:
- Aspirers: This lifestyle includes people looking to be more active online. They mostly access the Internet from home but want to be more active in the mobile space. These people are looking to be more active on social networking sites.
- Influencers: These people are young and the Internet plays a major role in their lives. They love mobile Internet, blog regularly and are passionate about social media. They’re also big online shoppers. They have a loud voice online and many friends and contacts.
- Communicators: They look to express themselves in every way possible, including online through social media and email and offline, in face to face meetings or on a landline. They’re smartphone users and access the Internet from home and the office.
- Knowledge-seekers: These people utilize the Internet for information. They’re not really interested in social media but do like to read online comments when they’re trying to make a purchasing decision.
- Functionals: For functionals the Internet is a tool for emailing, reading news and sports, checking the weather and online shopping. They’re not interested in social networking because of concerns around privacy and security. Functionals are older and have been using the Internet for a long time.
- Networkers: The Internet is extremely important to networkers as they use it to establish and maintain friendships. They lead busy home and work lives and social networking is really the only way they stay in touch with their contacts. They’ll engage with brands directly and often look for and participate in promotions, but don’t really have an online voice.
It’s easy to see how this type of data analysis and profiling is helpful to brands. But I wonder if it’s also a fair reflection of the digital lives we’re living? Do you recognize your digital lifestyle in any of these descriptions? Or do you find the idea of a digital lifestyle ridiculous – maybe an arbitrary and meaningless label? Does it make you nervous to think that thanks to our increasingly public digital lives, marketers have more information than ever to use to entice us to buy things?
I will admit to seeing some of my actions reflected in the descriptions above and I find the implications fascinating. Imagine if the Internet imploded – never to return again. Digital media is so ingrained in our lives – would we be able to handle it?